R.I.P. Christine McVie “And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score”

Christine McVie performing in 2019. By Raph_PH – FlMacWerchter080619_59, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101141876

Click the link to read the obit on The New York Times website (Jim Farber). Here’s an excerpt:

As a singer, songwriter and keyboardist, she was a prolific force behind one of the most popular rock bands of the last 50 years...

Ms. McVie’s commercial potency, which hit a high point in the 1970s and ’80s, was on full display on Fleetwood Mac’s “Greatest Hits” anthology, released in 1988, which sold more than eight million copies: She either wrote or co-wrote half of its 16 tracks. Her tally doubled that of the next most prolific member of the band’s trio of singer-songwriters, Stevie Nicks. (The third, Lindsey Buckingham, scored three major Billboard chart-makers on that collection.) The most popular songs Ms. McVie wrote favored bouncing beats and lively melodies, numbers like “Say You Love Me” (which grazed Billboard’s Top 10), “You Make Loving Fun” (which just broke it), “Hold Me” (No. 4) and “Don’t Stop” (her top smash, which crested at No. 3). But she could also connect with elegant ballads, like “Over My Head” (No. 20) and “Little Lies” (which cracked the publication’s Top Five in 1987)…

All those songs had cleanly defined, easily sung melodies, with hints of soul and blues at the core. Her compositions had a simplicity that mirrored their construction. “I don’t struggle over my songs,” Ms. McVie (pronounced mc-VEE) told Rolling Stone in 1977. “I write them quickly.”

In just half an hour, she wrote one of the band’s most beloved songs, “Songbird,” a sensitive ballad that for years served as the band’s closing encore in concert. In 2019, the band’s leader, Mick Fleetwood, told New Musical Express that “Songbird” is the piece he wanted played at his funeral, “to send me off fluttering.” Ms. McVie’s lyrics often captured the more intoxicating aspects of romance. “I’m definitely not a pessimist,” she told Bob Brunning, the author of the 2004 book “The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumours and Lies.” “I’m basically a love song writer.” At the same time, her words accounted for the yearning and disappointments that can lurk below an exciting surface. “I’m good at pathos,” she told Mojo magazine in 2017. “I write about romantic despair a lot, but with a positive spin.”

Inflation Reduction Act Funds Landmark Agreements to Accelerate #SaltonSea Restoration — The U.S. Department of Interior #ColoradoRiver #COriver #CRWUA2022

Birds gather at the Salton Sea and important stop on the Pacific Flyway. Photo credit: The Revelator

Click the link to read the release on the DOI website:

The Department of the Interior today announced a historic agreement funded by the Inflation Reduction Act that will mitigate impacts from the worsening drought crisis impacting the Salton Sea in Southern California.

Established by Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau and leaders from the California Natural Resources Agency, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD), the agreement will accelerate implementation of dust suppression and aquatic restoration efforts at the Salton Sea in Southern California. The agreement, which is set for consideration by the IID board of directors at its meeting tomorrow, will expedite implementation of the state’s 10-year plan and enable urgent water conservation needed to protect Colorado River reservoir storage volumes amid persistent climate change-driven drought conditions.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to bringing every resource to bear to help manage the drought crisis and provide a sustainable water system for families, businesses and our vast and fragile ecosystems. This landmark agreement represents a key step in our collective efforts to address the challenges the Colorado River Basin is facing due to worsening drought and climate change impacts,” said Deputy Secretary Beaudreau. “Historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act will help to support the Imperial and Coachella Valley and the environment around the Salton Sea, as well as support California’s efforts to voluntarily save 400,000 acre-feet a year to protect critical elevations at Lake Mead.”

The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is receding due to the drought crisis gripping the West and resulting necessary conservation actions in the Imperial Valley that have reduced inflows to the Sea. Exposed lakebed is contributing to harmful dust emissions to the surrounding environment and reducing important environmental habitat for wildlife.

Under the agreement, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation will provide $22 million in new funding through the Inflation Reduction Act in fiscal year 2023 to implement projects at the Sea, support staffing at the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, and conduct scientific research and management that contributes to project implementation.

Subject to the implementation of voluntary conservation actions proposed by IID and CVWD, Reclamation will also provide an additional $228 million over the next four years to expedite existing projects and bolster staffing capacity at the water agencies to help deliver new projects. This is in support of California’s commitment to voluntarily conserve 400,000 acre-feet annually, starting in 2023. This $250 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act will complement the $583 million in state funding committed to date.

“This agreement is a huge step forward,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “It builds our momentum delivering projects at the Sea to protect communities and the environment and ensures that California’s leadership conserving Colorado River water supplies doesn’t come at the expense of local residents.”

Under the agreement, the California Natural Resources Agency commits to accelerating project delivery through permit streamlining and use of its full contracting authority. It also commits to continue pursuing additional funding for projects to build on state funding already committed to Salton Sea Management Program implementation.

The Interior Department, IID and CVWD have agreed to establish programmatic land access agreements to enable state agencies to implement projects. In addition, the two water agencies will provide available future water supplies for new projects. This will enable California water agencies to commit to voluntarily reduce their water usage each year beginning in 2023 through 2026 to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead.

The Colorado River provides water to two countries, seven western states, 30 Tribal Nations and 40 million residents. It is currently experiencing the longest and worst drought on record, driven by hotter temperatures under climate change. Efforts continue in California and across the Colorado River Basin to find ways to stabilize water storage volumes in Lakes Powell and Mead. Reclamation and water agencies are working closely to take extraordinary actions to protect the Colorado River System.

Southern California water agencies have agreed on a deal to cut back on the amount of water they use for the Colorado River, some of which is used to grow crops in the Imperial Valley. Ted Wood/The Water Desk

Click the link to read “Drying California lake to get $250M in US drought funding” on the Associated Press website (Kathleen Ronayne). Here’s an excerpt:

The future of the Salton Sea, and who is financially responsible for it, has been a key issue in discussions over how to prevent a crisis in the Colorado River. The lake was formed in 1905 when the river overflowed, creating a resort destination that slowly morphed into an environmental disaster as water levels receded, exposing residents to harmful dust and reducing wildlife habitat. The lake is largely fed by runoff from farms in California’s Imperial Valley, who use Colorado River water to grow many of the nation’s winter vegetables as well as feed crops like alfalfa. As the farmers reduce their water use, less flows into the lake. California said it would only reduce its reliance on the over-tapped river if the federal government put up money to mitigate the effects of less water flowing into the sea. The deal announced Monday needs approval from the Imperial Irrigation District, the largest user of Colorado River water. The water entity’s board will take it up on Tuesday. Both the district’s general manager and board member JB Hamby applauded the deal Monday.

“The collaboration happening at the Salton Sea between water agencies and state, federal, and tribal governments is a blueprint for effective cooperation that the Colorado River Basin sorely needs,” Hamby said in a statement.

The $250 million will come out of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which set aside $4 billion to stave off the worst effects of drought across the U.S. West. Most of the money is contingent on the Imperial Irrigation District and Coachella Valley Water District making good on their commitments to reduce their own use of river water. Both submitted proposals to cut back their usage for payment as part of a new federal program.

The Salton Sea is a major nesting, wintering and stopover site for about 400 bird species (Source: California Department of Water Resources)

Click the link to read “U.S. government pledges $250 million to help ailing Salton Sea” on The Los Angeles Times website (Ian James). Here’s an excerpt:

This year, federal officials demanded large-scale water cutbacks throughout the Southwest to try to prevent the Colorado River’s reservoirs from dropping to dangerously-low levels. Four major California water districts have proposed to reduce water use by up to 400,000 acre-feet per year for the next four years, about 9% of the state’s total water allotment.

The Imperial Irrigation District has pledged to take on the largest share of California’s reductions, up to 250,000 acre-feet of water per year.

“From the outset, IID made it clear that taking action to protect the Colorado River system would have significant impacts on the Salton Sea, and that IID’s participation was conditioned on real efforts and dollars to protect public health and wildlife around the sea,” Hamby said.

He said the federal government’s new commitment “makes it much easier and simpler for us to make large contributions toward the Colorado River system.”

The infusion of federal money is the central feature of an agreement among the federal government, the Imperial Irrigation District, the California Natural Resources Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District. The Interior Department announced the plan on Monday, and the Imperial Irrigation District’s board narrowly endorsed the agreement in a 3-2 vote at a meeting Tuesday. The debate was contentious, with some farmers, community advocates and local officials saying they didn’t think the agreement was a good deal for the Imperial Valley, or that the community should have more time to weigh in.

Luis Olmedo, executive director of the nonprofit group Comite Civico del Valle, said his organization opposed what he called a “hastily announced, half-baked deal.” He said in a statement, which a colleague read at the meeting in El Centro, that the board was deciding with little public scrutiny.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: The #ColoradoRiver Compact Turns 100 — #Water For #Colorado #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the blog post on the Water For Colorado website:

On November 24, , the Colorado River Compact celebrates its 100th birthday. This 4-page document  — signed in Santa Fe, N.M. by the seven states through which the Colorado River flows — became the foundational document governing management of America’s hardest working — and most endangered — river. The Compact was successful in its stated goal,  jump-starting “the expeditious agricultural and industrial development” of the West, but a century after its signing, the Compact governs a Basin that is growing beyond recognition, and faces a far different reality than the framers dreamed.

A hotter, drier reality grips the Basin due to drought, explosive growth, and climate change. Historic shortage declarations, dwindling flows, and threats of a hydropower crisis endanger the West daily. But the Compact had shortcomings from the start. It failed to involve Tribal Nations — long-term stewards of the land and river — as separate sovereigns with rights and interests on the River. It did not consider and incorporate environmental values in river management decisions. It overestimated the available river flows to be apportioned within the Basin. After 100 years, these limitations weaken the management system that teeters on the edge of a crisis in the face of drought accelerated by climate change across the fastest growing region of the country. The river simply cannot keep up. When the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore and survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, the system can either crash,  or people will come together to innovate solutions around a resource that literally supports everyone in the basin and across the country. 

Crises provide an opportunity to do things we couldn’t anticipate or imagine. We have, lying before us, the potential to build a future that better fits the needs and values of today.  It doesn’t require a renegotiation of the Compact, but does require adapting the original Compact’s application across the Basin to be relevant today. To succeed, we need to act now. 

It’s often said that, in times of crisis, acceptance is the first step. We need to acknowledge that climate change has thrown a wrench into our 100-year old river management framework, and that clinging to old ways as the Basin’s hydrology changes from one of abundance to one of scarcity, risks an uncertain future for communities, economies, and ecosystems throughout. Communities across the West are already facing these impacts daily, whether by the inability to safely access clean water, harming birds and wildlife, closing  essential economic activities like river recreation due to dwindling flows, or drying up family farms that have been operating for generations. 

Gravel bar Ruby Horsethief Canyon. Photo credit: USFWS via University of Colorado

Once we’ve acknowledged the current state of the crisis and how we got here , it’s essential that everyone  accept responsibility as members of the Colorado River community, and adopt a water-wise ethic to do what it can to sustain the basin. No one water user, water sector, state, basin or government can independently achieve the changes needed to sustain a functioning river system. By recognizing that everyone has a role in the Basin community, we can work together to: 

  • update operations to do more than rely on practices implemented for the past 100 years; 
  • reduce and adapt water uses to fit within the river we have, not the one we imagined a century ago, or the one we just wish would return through by mere hope; 
  • respect that healthy watersheds, National Parks, and river systems are more than mere luxuries that can be overlooked or sacrificed.   
Colorado River in Grand Junction. Photo credit: Allen Best

The Colorado River community and everyone who depends upon it has a significant opportunity to do just that as it embarks on updating the operational guidelines for the river system. To address the crisis through this process, the community will need to: (1) be realistic about the available hydrology and river conditions going forward; (2) plan for possible worst case scenarios; and (3) create greater flexibilities and resiliencies within the system to help the basin adapt to existing and future conditions. To this end, we will need to be flexible, balanced and also transparent in the process. This includes involving all stakeholders — especially Tribes —  in the process.

We are already seeing progress in some areas. Transformational federal funding is flowing to Western water in a way that’s never been seen before, with the recent appropriations provided through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Inflation Reduction Act, Farm Bill, and other pieces of Federal legislation that promote resilience building throughout the Western United States. 

But more needs to be done. It’s essential that Colorado and other Basin communities effectively capture and implement the available funding while maintaining pressure on elected officials to continue prioritizing funding for critical resilience strategies in the Basin. Moreover, we must recognize that the threat of litigation is not a good water management strategy. It puts the entire Colorado River community at risk by providing  no meaningful clarity on how to efficiently adapt to actual conditions in the Basin, it hinders problem solving, stifles collaboration, and promotes an adversarial stance, rather than thoughtful, intentional, and honest collaboration.  

The signers of the Colorado River Compact recognized that the Colorado River is essential to life and critical to our ability to thrive in the West. A century later, they could not anticipate the values and conditions challenging the Basin today.  Therefore it is  incumbent upon us to pick up where the Compact negotiators left off and build on the framework  they provided. The turbulence of our time will leave a legacy with long-term consequences. Unrelenting uncertainty can make us anxious and fearful, but it can also highlight and inspire our resilience, but only if we do it together.

Colorado River. Photo credit: University of Montana

2022 Annual Meeting of the #ArkansasRiver Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Thursday, December 8, 2022

Map of the Arkansas River drainage basin. Created using USGS National Map and NASA SRTM data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79039596

From email from ARCA (Kevin Salter):

These meetings will be held at the Lamar Elks Lodge No. 1319, 28157 US Highway 287, Lamar, CO 81052, on December 7th and 8th.  We are planning on an in-person meetings with a virtual option.  That being said, we cannot guarantee effective technology to facilitate listening in on these meetings at this point though we will do our best.  A Zoom meeting link can be requested by contacting Stephanie Gonzales at arca.co.ks@gmail.com on December 6th.

As of now, there are no restrictions that would affect having these meetings in person, but that is subject to change.  These are public meetings, between the States of Colorado with other local, State, and federal agencies participating.  There may be restrictions for those attending and we hope that you can respect those restrictions.  If you are unable to do so, please consider participating in the virtual meeting option.

This is the final notice for the upcoming Arkansas River Compact Administration Annual and Committee Meetings.  Please note that the meeting dates and location were changed at the ARCA Annual Meeting held in December 2022.

The 2022 Annual Meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Thursday, December 82022.  The Engineering, Operations, and Administrative/Legal Committees of ARCA will meet onWednesday, December 72022.  These meetings are to be held at Lamar Elks Lodge No. 1319, 28157 US Highway 287, Lamar, CO 81052.  The meetings are intended to be in person, but as noted above there will be a virtual option.

Meetings of ARCA are operated in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. If you need a special accommodation as a result of a disability please contact Stephanie Gonzales at (719) 688-0799 at least three days before the meeting.

This and additional information can be found on ARCA’s website, please check back often since the meeting information will be added as it becomes available:

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Andrew or myself.

Cloud seeding adds to local winter — The #CrestedButte News

Graphic credit: “Literature Review and Scientific Synthesis on the Efficacy of Winter Orographic Cloud Seeding” — CIRES

Click the link to read the article on The Crested Butte News website (Katherine Nettles). Here’s an excerpt:

The Upper Gunnison Basin Cloud Seeding Program started in the 2002/2003 winter season, following a feasibility study the year prior funded by Gunnison County in response to significant drought in 2002. After the program’s first year, the UGRWCD took over and in the time since it has grown to 15 generators, on both public and private land. The UGRWCD wants to add more generators in other qualified locations, starting with one on private land on Black Mesa.  According to the UGRWCD, cloud seeding is one of the cheapest forms of augmentation water for the river basin at an estimated $0.53 per acre-foot annually. And it can provide critical water to support Gunnison River basin flows, Blue Mesa Reservoir and the local economy.

“Typically, what we plan for is that in the last five years or so the programs run at about $114,000 to $118,000 per year,” says Sonja Chavez, general manager for the UGRWCD. 

The Colorado Water Conservation Board gives anywhere between $67,000 and $94,000 and the UGRWCD covers the remaining $20,000 to $45,000. Chavez says that program costs are increasing, however. “We are adding a new generation site, and we are going to be looking for new funding partners,” she says…

Cloud seeding cannot create a snowstorm, but it can increase the precipitation from a storm that already exists. Cole Osborne, project meteorologist for NAWC, explains how the process works using manual and remote-controlled generators and propane tanks to blast a mix of silver iodide and sodium iodide into the atmosphere. 

“The solution attracts liquid particles in a cloud, and the water molecules develop into ice crystals…so you can speed up the process and make a cloud more efficient at producing precipitation,” he says…

The UGRWCD and NAWC believe a remote generator placed at Black Mesa between Crested Butte and Gunnison will do more than any other program enhancement, in terms of water augmentation in the Gunnison Range and to Blue Mesa Reservoir. The UGRWCD, with financial assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, has decided to fund the initial set-up and infrastructure costs for the remote generator for approximately $67,600.  Osborne says there’s a huge area they are trying to target to lead to increased spring runoff and rises in reservoir levels. According to a memo from the UGRWCD earlier this month to potential funding partners, “NAWC analysis indicates that the generator will have significant direct benefits to northern and southern tributaries to Blue Mesa Reservoir and to eastern tributaries due to positive downwind cloud seeding impacts. The remote generator would permit cloud seeding during almost all storm periods that impact the Upper Gunnison River watershed. Seeding could occur during periods with winds ranging from northerly to southerly. 

#CRWUA2022: #ColoradoRiver users, facing historic uncertainty, are set to meet in Las Vegas next month — The #Nevada Independent #COriver #aridification

A portion of Lake Mead as seen from an airplane on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Click the link to read the article on Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit newsroom The Nevada Independent website (Daniel Rothberg):

As Colorado River water users prepare to meet in Las Vegas next month, the reality they face is one of growing uncertainty with few simple options left on the negotiating table. The math is well understood: There are more demands for the river than there is water coming into its reservoirs. 

But cutting back at the scale necessary — and on a voluntary basis — has proven painstakingly difficult this year as top officials from across the Colorado River watershed have failed to reach a settlement. If the cuts are inevitable based on physical realities, questions remain about what form they will take. Will they be voluntary? Mandatory? Both? And how would they be enforced?

The federal government is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: On the one hand, it is seeking to fund voluntary conservation programs, paying irrigators to forgo water. But federal officials are also analyzing mandatory cutbacks if a negotiated deal cannot be reached among water users.

How the two strategies will work together — and in light of a century of contracts, agreements and guidelines that govern the river — remains a lingering question as water managers prepare for a conference in Las Vegas next month. The conference, hosted by the Colorado River Water Users Association, or CRWUA, brings together water officials, policymakers and interest groups from across the basin, which includes seven U.S. states, 30 Native American tribes and Mexico. 

The conference will cap a dizzying year of crisis on a river beset with long-term challenges and inequities weaved into its foundational rules. In June, as negotiators were looking at reworking the operating rules on the Colorado River (set to expire in 2026), the federal government called on water users to agree on substantial short-term cuts that would stave off disastrous declines in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the river’s largest reservoirs. Yet with such deep cuts needed, negotiators failed to develop a binding agreement after an August 15 deadline came and went. 

“The level of uncertainty is increasing,” Tom Buschatzke, who directs the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said. “I haven’t seen anything that’s got the pendulum to stop swinging in the increasing direction and maybe at least stop — and maybe start going the other way.”

Since 1922, the Colorado River Compact has guided development in the watershed. On top of that foundational document are a century of treaties, federal laws and agreements dictating how the river and shortages are apportioned. But those deals have not shielded those reliant on the river, which serves 40 million people in the Southwest, from low reservoirs and mounting risk. 

Together, the many reservoirs that store water for Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico, are 33 percent full. Lake Mead, held back by the Hoover Dam and the reservoir from which the Las Vegas Valley draws 90 percent of its drinking water, is 28 percent full. Upstream at another large reservoir, Lake Powell, low water has exposed submerged landscapes. It is 25 percent full.

Modeling by federal water experts forecast both Lake Mead and Lake Powell continuing to drop below critical levels. Without changes in water use, Lake Mead, over the next two years, could drop below the threshold triggering deeper water shortages. And Lake Powell could drop below its minimum power pool, the point at which water is so low the dam cannot generate electricity. 

In June, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton called on all water users and all sectors on the Colorado River to come together with a plan that would cut a huge amount of water — about 2 million to 4 million acre-feet — as a measure to stabilize the two reservoirs (an acre-foot is enough water to roughly fill a football field to a depth of one foot). 

That put most of the onus on the Lower Colorado River Basin, the states downstream of Lake Powell (Arizona, California and Nevada), where most of the water is consumed in cities, farms, businesses and lost to evaporation. Of the seven states that rely on the Colorado River, Nevada has the smallest apportionment, with entitlements to only 1.8 percent of all the water that’s been allocated. Still, Las Vegas is also heavily dependent on the river as a long-term water supply. 

John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said in a recent interview that Nevada faces less physical risk than water users downstream of Lake Mead. The agency recently completed construction of a low-level intake and pumping station that allows it to draw water out of Lake Mead, even in the most extreme water-shortage scenarios. Still, the interstate negotiations are highly consequential for shaping what future cuts might look like.

“So our risk really has to be evaluated in terms of how big of a reduction we could face and what are our plans for dealing with that,” he said. “I think we have the ability to adapt to anything that might come our way… We’re not going to start publicly negotiating against ourselves about how low we think our reduction might be, but we do internal modeling and look at additional steps we can take in conservation, and I think we’re at a pretty good place to take care of ourselves.”

With no agreement in place to cut close to 2 million acre-feet, the federal government has been stepping in. Earlier this year, the federal government injected an infusion of cash — $4 billion — into managing the river, a portion of which was set aside for conservation. In October, federal water managers began soliciting proposals to pay irrigators $330 to $400 for each acre-foot of water they conserved (federal officials said they would also accept different pricing proposals). 

The proposals for voluntary and compensated conservation closed last week. California said it would commit to cutting 400,000 acre-feet of water (it is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet), a mix of water from irrigation districts and through the primary municipal provider for Southern California. 

“This isn’t the grand solution or all that California is going to do as we look to right sizing water usage,” said Wade Crowfoot, California’s natural resources secretary. “But our take was we’re on borrowed time so let’s step up and do as much as we can do collectively, voluntarily.”

In Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community announced that it would commit to forgo 125,000 acre-feet of water, according to The Arizona Republic. Native American tribes hold some of the oldest and most valuable rights to the Colorado River, but were excluded from the compact, one of the many fundamental injustices embedded into the framework of the river’s operating rules. At the same time some Native American tribes are stepping up to help conserve water, many are still fighting for their water rights, and face systemic barriers in putting the water to use. 

California uses the majority of the water in the Lower Basin, followed by Arizona (it is entitled to 2.8 million acre-feet). But a federal law gave California a priority to water relative to the Central Arizona Project, a 336-mile canal running from the river through the Phoenix and Tucson areas. In theory, that means that in times of severe shortage California can use all its water before the canal gets any. Arizona says that’s not an equitable solution, and the law is not as clear-cut. 

As a result of the differing priorities to water, Arizona has already made significant cuts to its water use in past years, including through the Drought Contingency Plan, while California has not. Buschatzke said he wanted to see the state commit to further cuts, closer to the 525,000 acre-feet in additional cuts that Arizona said it had put on the negotiating table this summer. 

“I think California’s number should be closer to whatever Arizona has to do,” he said. 

How the commitments to conserve water translates into actual water savings is another issue that water managers are grappling with. It’s one thing to make a commitment. It’s another thing to get individual irrigators to cut back as farmers place water orders and prepare for the growing season. Many point to the 500+ Plan as an example. It was a voluntary program, signed by the states at the Las Vegas conference last year, and pledged to save 500,000 acre-feet of water. 

“The 500 Plus plan existed in 2022,” said Colby Pellegrino, Southern Nevada Water Authority’s deputy general manager. “We just didn’t have enough interest in voluntarily participating.”

Crowfoot said he is “confident” that California water users can meet the conservation goal, but he recognizes “that there’s work to do to actually turn that commitment into wet water.”

Voluntary programs are not the only action that water users might expect to see within the next year. There remains a second approach on the table that could result in reductions for states across the basin. Last month, federal water managers initiated a formal process to conduct an environmental analysis that could result in mandatory water use reductions in the Lower Basin. 

The federal government is evaluating a number of options, including holding back water in Lake Powell, redefining existing cuts and accounting for the significant amount of water that is lost to evaporation and leaky infrastructure. According to an analysis from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, accounting for evaporation and other losses could save about 1.5 million acre-feet.

Accounting for conservation could meet challenges. Some users said their legal priority to water should be factored into any discussion about evaporation. Otherwise, as JB Hamby, a board member for the Imperial Irrigation District (with the river’s largest single allocation) argues, “it’s an attempt to redistribute shortages from junior users to senior primarily agricultural users.” (In Western water law, those with newer “junior” rights are typically cut first in times of drought).

Hamby said the district was submitting a proposal to cut its use by about 250,000 acre-feet for a negotiated price, but he suggested uniform accounting for evaporation loss was a non-starter. 

“The shortage,” Hamby said, “was not created by those who were there first, and there was still water gushing into the Sea of Cortez.” Instead, he said it should fall on more recent water uses. 

But Buschatzke said his opinion is that everyone relies on infrastructure where evaporation is occurring, regardless of their priority. As such, all users have a responsibility in accounting for it in their water budgets. Still, he conceded that not all Arizona water users share this opinion. 

“If you are using Colorado River water…, you own a piece of that evaporation loss,” he said.

Entsminger echoed this, saying that priority should not have anything to do with it. While there has been little overall progress on a negotiated approach, Entsminger pointed to one sign that parties, with varying interests, can still work collaboratively in the Colorado River Basin. 

Last week, 30 municipal water providers from across the watershed signed a memorandum of understanding that pledged to increase water conservation and remove non-functional turf. For the larger cuts, Entsminger said that a consensus-based deal is still his preferred outcome. 

“I still think it should be the path forward because your entire universe of options is contained within negotiation, litigation or legislation, and I’m not a fan of litigation or legislation,” he said.

Colorado River Allocations: Credit: The Congressional Research Service

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: Heading Home — InkStain @jfleck @R_Eric_Kuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

The Colorado River near Black Canyon before Hoover Dam. Photo via InkStain.

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

After signing the Colorado River Compact on Friday, Nov. 24, 1922, the commissioners and their advisors returned to their home states. The compact would not become effective until it had been ratified by the legislatures of each of the states and the United States Congress. It was now time to prepare reports, answer questions, and work for state approval.

The ratification process was difficult. It would take 78 months before Congress finally approved a six-state pact and 22 years before all seven states agreed to it.

ARIZONA: NORVIEL

Arizona’s Winfield Norviel had the most difficult path ahead. Governor-elect George Hunt was opposed to the compact. Norviel knew that his job as the state’s water commissioner would be ending soon after Hunt took office. It’s a credit to Norviel that he simply didn’t tell the other commissioners that, given Hunt’s position, Arizona was not interested in agreeing to a compact, pack his bags and go home. Instead, he went back to Arizona and advocated for ratification. Hunt was reelected in 1924, again in 1926, lost in 1928, then won for the last time in 1932, always championing his opposition to the pact. Norviel died in 1935, nine years before Arizona ratified the compact.

UTAH: CALDWELL

Utah’s R.E. Caldwell returned to Salt Lake City and wrote a detailed report recommending ratification of the compact. The Utah legislature quickly complied. Caldwell resigned as State Engineer on July 1st, 1924, to “attend to personal business.” There is no evidence in the record that Caldwell stayed involved in Colorado River issues after his resignation. George Dern, who defeated Charles Mabey in 1924 for governor became Utah’s point man on the Colorado River. Caldwell died in 1959.

CALIFORNIA: MCCLURE

California’s W. F. McClure returned to Sacramento and wrote a short report. With the help of the Imperial Irrigation District, he obtained a clean ratification on February 3rd, 1923. In 1925, the California Legislature made its approval of the compact contingent upon Congressional approval of the Boulder Canyon Project. McClure never developed an effective working relationship with nor gained the full trust of the Imperial Irrigation District officials and the other Southern Californians with interests in Colorado River. He was a critic of the All-American Canal Project. McClure died in 1926. To represent the state on Colorado River matters California created the five-member Colorado River Commission in 1927 which became the Colorado River Board of California in 1937.

NEW MEXICO: DAVIS

New Mexico’s Stephen Davis wrote a short report recommending ratification and, like Utah, its legislature quickly ratified the compact. On the same day that it approved the Colorado River Compact, February 7th, 1923, it also ratified the La Plata River Compact. The compact which covers a small tributary of the San Juan River shared by New Mexico and Colorado was negotiated by Carpenter and Davis and signed on November 27th. During the negotiations, Davis, who had resigned from the New Mexico Supreme Court when he was named its Colorado River Compact Commissioner, gained Hoover’s respect and confidence. In 1923 he became Solicitor of Hoover’s Department of Commerce. He later practiced law in New York from 1928 until death in 1933.

NEVADA: SCRUGHAM

James Scrugham, who had been elected Governor in November 1922, returned to Carson City and wrote a short report. Nevada’s legislature became the first state to ratify the compact on January 27th. He lost his bid for reelection in 1926. From 1932 – 1942 he was Nevada’s sole member of the U. S. House of Representatives. He was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1942, serving until his death in 1945.

WYOMING: EMERSON

Wyoming’s Frank Emerson wrote a detailed report. The Wyoming legislature ratified the compact on February 9th, 1923. Emerson also became a governor, elected both in 1926 and 1930. As governor, he was actively involved in Colorado River matters, pressing Congress for approval of the compact and authorization of the Boulder Canyon Project. Emerson died while in office in 1931.

Governor Clarence J. Morley signing Colorado River compact and South Platte River compact bills, Delph Carpenter standing center. Unidentified photographer. Date 1925. Print from Denver Post. From the CSU Water Archives

COLORADO: CARPENTER

Colorado’s Delph Carpenter returned to Greeley, Colorado where he also wrote a very detailed report, but ratification by his state was not easy. In March he had to write a supplemental report and call on Hoover to help him address several questions. Colorado ratified the compact on April 3rd, 1923. After Hunt was reelected Governor of Arizona in 1924, Carpenter became convinced that Arizona would not ratify the compact, so he became the quarterback of the six-state approval process that was implemented in 1928 when Congress passed the Boulder canyon Project Act. Carpenter, heralded as the father of interstate water compacts, was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. He became bed-ridden in 1933 and died in 1951.

CHAIRMAN HOOVER

Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover worked with the other commissioners to obtain ratification by their states. In 1928, he was elected as the 31st President of the United States. As president, on June 25th, 1929, he issued a proclamation declaring the Boulder Canyon Project Act effective. The act provided Congressional approval of the compact and authorized the construction of Boulder Dam, now Hoover Dam, and the All-American Canal. The legislation included a six-month window for California to limit its uses to 4.4 million acre-feet per year of Article III(a) water (plus ½ of the unappropriated surplus), for Utah to approve a six-state compact, and for the basin states to make one more attempt to make an agreement with Arizona. They failed. Hoover lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. He died in 1964.

RECLAMATION’S DAVIS

The Commission’s primary technical advisor was Arthur Powell Davis, Director of the Reclamation Service. Davis returned to Washington D.C. where he helped Hoover address Congressional questions about the pact. More of a hands-on engineer and visionary than an administrator, Davis saw the compact as key to approval of the Boulder Canyon Project, which would reenergize his struggling agency.

The struggles ran deep. Two decades after the Reclamation Act laid out a vision for irrigating the West, projects were floundering, with farmers largely unable to repay the ten year interest free “loans” from the federal government that were the projects’ financing mechanism. The original ten year payback scheme had already been extended to twenty, but many irrigation projects were nevertheless abandoned because the irrigators could not pay.

On June 19th, 1923, the day after the Reclamation Service became the Bureau of Reclamation, Davis was dismissed by Interior Secretary Hubert Work. A year later Elwood Mead was hired as Commissioner. Under Mead, the Bureau of Reclamation would become a major agency building the world’s tallest dam, Hoover Dam, and the world’s largest hydroelectric project, Grand Coulee. Davis then became a consultant for California agencies. He died in 1933. In 1941, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes proclaimed that the dam being planned on Colorado River below Hoover dam at Bullshead (also known as Bullhead) would be named after Davis.

THE OTHERS

Two technical advisors, Colorado’s R. I. Meeker and Utah’s Dr. John Widstoe participated in both the 1922 and 1948 Compact negotiations. For the 1948 Upper Basin pact, Meeker was an advisor to Arizona.

As far as the authors can tell, no women were listed in the attendees to the Colorado River Compact negotiations. It is likely that Commission Secretary Clarence Stetson had clerical help. If so, they were never acknowledged.

There is no evidence that any Tribal members attended, or were even consulted, about the fate of the river in whose basins they had been living for time immemorial.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact history: the deal signed, the rhetoric soars — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

waxing poetic

Click the link to read the article the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

As the Colorado River Compact’s negotiators trekked home in the final week of November 1922 following the completion of their task, the rhetoric soared.

Newspapers across the basin published the text of the Compact in full, and the leaders of the negotiation effort fanned out to praise the effort and lay the groundwork for the next steps.

Herbert Hoover, the Commerce Secretary, Commission chairman, and the diplomat who had steered the negotiations through the narrow space for compromise available, spared little in his enthusiasm, nor in his optimism of the next steps. From a Los Angeles radio address:

“The foundation has been laid for a great American conquest. The harnessing of the giant Colorado river will follow the ratification of the pact by the seven states of the Colorado river basin. With such ratification, the next step will be the construction, without delay, of a control dam, under authorization of congress.

“Then the southwest will come into its magnificent heritage of power and life giving water, and all the nation will be vastly benefitted.”

Arthur Powell Davis, head of the Reclamation Service and technical leader of the Compact efforts, framed the agreement as an end to conflict over the river’s water:

“It will obviate the delay and acrimonious litigations which a year ago seemed imminent and has cleared the way for the provision of flood control and irrigation storage urgently needed and indispensable to further development in the Colorado river basin.”

There would be “millions of homes” (Hoover’s words), a vast expansion of irrigation, and flood protection for the Imperial and (Hoover was at pains to point out to the Arizonans) Yuma valleys.

THE SALES PITCH – PLENTY OF WATER FOR ALL

Reclamation’s Davis laid out the central sales pitch:

“The natural flow of the Colorado river averages nearly 20,000,000 acre feet per annum.”

The Upper Basin’s 7.5 million acre foot allocation was “more than double its present needs,” enough to bring another 3 million acres under irrigation, “sufficient for all feasible projects, and some of doubtful feasibility.”

Similarly, with the creation of storage, the Lower Basin would be able to greatly expand its irrigated acreage.

And will all that, Davis argued, the deal left a 4 million acre foot “surplus”, enough to meet the needs of a future treaty with Mexico and to return in the future to reallocate the rest.

NEXT STEPS

The next steps – ratification, legislation, construction – seemed naively simple.

“Confidence that all the state legislatures will approve the compact was expressed by various commissioners,” the wire services reported out of Santa Fe.

As if ratification might be treated as a formality, attention turned immediately to Congress, where officials eyed the pending Smith-McNary bill as a vehicle to launch the Colorado River projects.

Both would take far more time – six years for Congressional action, more than two decades for state ratification, with the start of construction sandwiched in between.

But the changes to the West to be wrought by the Compact’s fewer than 2,000 words were now underway.

Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

Project 7 wins grant funds — The #Montrose Press

Sneffels Range and Ridgway Reservoir. CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56735453

Click the link to read the article on The Montrose Press website. Here’s an excerpt:

Project 7 Water Authority scored another grant to help it add critical infrastructure. The Colorado River District’s Accelerator Grant program awarded Project 7 $46,600, to be used in developing a competitive federal funding application.

Project 7 provides drinking water for about 60,000 people in the Uncompahgre River Valley and is in the process of developing a backup treatment facility to deliver treated water from Ridgway Reservoir. Currently, Montrose, Delta and Ouray counties’ drinking water comes from a single treatment plant, using water from Blue Mesa Reservoir that is delivered via the Gunnison Tunnel.

The Colorado River District funding will help pay for a feasibility study and a grant application to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for funding to treat hard water with high levels of minerals in Ridgway Reservoir. This study and application will include the results of a pilot project that tested out different means of softening and filtration so that when the backup plant is built, the water it treats will be of the same quality as the current treatment plant. Once the study is accepted by BuRec, Project 7’s Regional Water Supply & Resiliency Program is eligible to apply for federal funding through the bureau’s Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse grant opportunity. Earlier this year, Project 7 secured $612,059 from BuRec’s Desalination and Water Purification Research Program, which paid for the pilot project (with a funding match from Project 7).

The push for a second treatment facility is on, because the current, single source puts the region’s drinking water supply at greater risks from wildfire, drought and infrastructure failure. Having a second treatment plant will provide another source of drinking water (from Ridgway Reservoir) and provide a backup option in the event of infrastructure failure at the current plant.

Where did the #PFAS in your blood come from? These computer models offer clues — Environmental Health News

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the article on the Environmental Health News website (Marlowe Starling):

New research could help pinpoint “forever chemicals” exposure — giving communities a roadmap for cleanup and individuals direction on what to avoid.

Downstream of a Chemours fluorochemical manufacturing plant on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, people living in Brunswick and New Hanover counties suffer from higher-than-normal rates of brain tumors, breast cancers and other forms of rare — and accelerated — diseases.

Residents now know this isn’t a coincidence. It’s from years of PFAS contamination from Chemours.

It wasn’t easy to make the connection. More than a decade of water testing and lawsuits identified the link between aggressive cancers and per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS – a class of more than 9,000 toxic and persistent man-made compounds known informally as “forever chemicals.” They’re commonly found in nonstick cookware, water-resistant clothing, firefighting foam, cosmetics, food packaging and recently in school uniforms and insecticides.

The difficulty of tracing these chemicals to a specific source is that Americans — 97% of us, by one estimate — are exposed to potentially thousands of PFAS.

New research published in Science of the Total Environment now finds that tracing models can identify sources of PFAS contamination from people’s blood samples. Instead of using environmental measures of PFAS as a proxy for how people are exposed, the methods use blood samples as a more direct way to map people’s exposure.

“If this works, it would allow us to identify, without any prior knowledge, what people are being exposed to and how they’re being exposed to it,” Dylan Wallis, a lead author of the paper and toxicologist formerly at North Carolina State University, told EHN.

The research, while not yet perfect, marks the beginning of what could become a wide-scale method of determining where the PFAS in our blood came from—such as our food, drinking water or use of nonstick cookware—and how much of it came from each source. But its effectiveness hinges on the need to collect more comprehensive data on where PFAS occurs in people’s bodies, the environment and sources. If scientists can collect this data, then these methods would be able to draw a roadmap for people’s exposure, allowing us to pinpoint problem areas, avoid contamination and implement regulatory changes.

PFAS in blood samples

For this tracing method to work, scientists need an idea of which compounds exist in air, water, food and everyday products in a determined community. First, they have to know where to look for PFAS. This study used data from previous research to identify the types of PFAS in drinking water. Then, they test blood samples for which PFAS are in people’s bodies—although using blood alone gives us only part of the contamination picture, Carla Ng, a chemical and biological engineer at University of Pittsburgh, told EHN. Once they match PFAS proportions in blood to what’s in their drinking water, as in this study, they can gain clues to which sources contributed the chemicals showing up in people’s blood.

“You start to build this picture of what are the inputs, what’s the material they’re getting their exposure from, and then what’s in their blood,” Ng, who was not involved in the study, explained.

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

The new study analyzed blood samples taken in 2018 and 2020 from residents in Wilmington, North Carolina, and three towns in El Paso County, Colorado. Both communities are near well-known PFAS polluters: the Chemours facility in North Carolina, which manufactures fluoropolymers for nonstick and waterproof products, and the Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, which uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam, also called AFFFs.

Related: PFAS on our shelves and in our bodies

The team used computer models to identify 20 PFAS compounds from residents’ blood samples and then grouped them in categories representing different sources. Some are easy to identify because manufacturers often use a specific type of PFAS. For example, the compounds found in firefighting foam have a unique signature, like a fingerprint, making Peterson Space Force Base the obvious culprit. But more diffuse sources of PFAS, such as those in dust or food, are harder to pin down because scientists aren’t sure which PFAS are in them or where they come from.

In North Carolina and Colorado, the sources were more obvious, allowing the research team to test models’ ability to identify sources. However, to conduct similar research on a national scale is not so simple. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has tested levels of PFAS in blood samples nationwide since 1999, but it only tests for a specific list of PFAS, which could overlook the full spectrum of compounds.

Drinking water in both locations in the study shows high levels of fluoroethers and fluoropolymers, many of which are “legacy” PFAS, meaning they have been phased out of production for at least a decade but are still found in drinking water. Because the chemical bonds are so strong, they persist in the environment for years, which is why they show up in blood samples long after companies have stopped using or manufacturing them. Long-chain PFAS like PFOA and PFOS, which are the most-studied compounds with a longer structure of carbon-fluorine bonds, are harder to break down, and they bond to proteins in the blood more easily than short-chain compounds.

“These last a really long time,” Wallis said of long-chain PFAS, which were recorded at levels several times higher than national averages. “If you were drinking a really high level of it 40 years ago, you would still have really high levels of it 40 years later.”

A pollution snapshot

Wallis said they were surprised the models worked because they have never been used for PFAS before. They were built to trace other contaminants in the environment, like particles in air pollution, rather than in people.

Tracing PFAS is more challenging than tracing air pollution for several reasons, Xindi Hu, a lead data scientist at the research organization Mathematica, told EHN. Hu conducted earlier research using a different type of computer analysis of blood samples to identify the main sources of PFAS contamination in the Faroe Islands.

Many PFAS lack distinct chemical fingerprints to tell researchers exactly where a particular compound came from, Hu said. But in the study led by Wallis, the chemical fingerprints from the Space Force base in Colorado and fluorochemical facility in North Carolina are well-known.

“When you take a blood sample, it’s really just a snapshot,” she said. “So how do you translate this snapshot of concentration back to the course of the entire exposure history?”

That’s partly why the new paper’s authors conducted this study: The more compounds that are correctly linked to a source, the better these models will work, Wallis said. In essence, they need a better database of PFAS compounds so the models know how to connect the dots.

PFAS also react differently in the human body than in the environment, and scientists still don’t fully understand how we metabolize different compounds. Shorter-chain PFAS, for example, are more likely to appear in urine samples than in blood because they are water-soluble, said Pittsburgh’s Ng, who studies how PFAS react in humans and wildlife.

“If you’re doing everything on the basis of blood levels, it may not tell you everything you need to know about exposure and potential toxicity,” she said, adding that PFAS could also accumulate in the liver, brain, lungs and other locations where it’s difficult to take samples.

Worse, more modern PFAS with carbon-hydrogen bonds can actually transform into other types of compounds as the body metabolizes them, which could give a false impression of what people are exposed to.

“The key to identifying a good tracer is a molecule that doesn’t transform,” Ng said. Some PFAS are great tracers, she added, but “the more transformable your PFAS is in general, the poorer the tracer is going to be.”

That’s why newer PFAS compounds like GenX were not detected in blood samples or used as tracers in the recent study.

“These models aren’t going to account for everything,” Wallis said. “No model is.”

Stopping the contamination 

Wallis and their co-authors said they hope the models can become more accurate for less exposed communities in the future. With more data, it would be easier to suggest what to avoid instead of guessing where PFAS exposures come from, Wallis said, adding that it could lead to more protective regulations.

Although these models can vaguely help identify where compounds might come from in a particular community, it’s not a definitive solution, Alissa Cordner, an environmental sociologist and co-director of the PFAS Project Lab who was not involved in the recent study, told EHN. Even if there’s no immediate application of these methods, identifying where PFAS are is the first step.

“Everybody can point their fingers at other possible sources of contamination,” Cordner said. “The best way to address this is not to try to, after the fact, link people’s exposure to a contamination source. It’s to stop the contamination.”

From Your Site Articles

This Week in Water™: A Rail Strike Could Stop #Water Treatment Systems in Their Tracks — @H2ORadio

Click the link to go to the H2ORadio website. Here’s an excerpt:

Railroad workers in the U.S. are set to go on strike on December 9, if an agreement is not reached with their employers. If they strike, it could have impacts on water treatment plants across the country. Drinking water and wastewater systems depend on trains to deliver critical chemicals, including chlorine.

West Portal Moffat Tunnel.

Unions have been struggling to get workers paid sick leave, but a tentative deal that was reached in September did not include sick pay and was rejected by four labor organizations. Workers have also been complaining about staffing shortages and scheduling rules that keep many on call seven days a week. CNN reports that record profits have been reported by many railroads last year and are likely this year.

Rail workers are critical to all sectors of the economy. A strike would paralyze nearly one third of U.S. freight shipments, and Reuters reports it could cost as much as $2 billion a day. Earlier this month water organizations wrote to President Biden saying the stoppage of rail service would be catastrophic for utilities’ ability to operate and would pose a significant threat to human health.

E&E News reports that, in anticipation of a strike, it’s likely shipments of the critical chemicals will be halted, because they cannot be left stranded in unsecured locations. In September, deliveries were curtailed before a strike was averted at the last minute.

While only four of 12 unions may go on strike in December, it’s likely the others will honor picket lines. Railroad companies could also lock out workers if no contract is reached. There have been renewed calls for President Biden and Congress to intervene. On Thanksgiving Day, Biden said his administration was involved in talks to avoid a strike. The Railway Labor Act passed in 1926 gives Congress the power to block a strike, unlike labor laws for union members in most other businesses.

#SanJuanRiver #snowpack and streamflow report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website. Here’s an excerpt:

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 5.7 inches of snow water equivalent as of noon on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The Wolf Creek summit is at 88 percent of the Nov. 22 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 93 percent of the Nov. 22 median.

River report

Stream flow for the San Juan River on Nov. 22 at approximately 11 a.m. was 75.1 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological National Water Dashboard, These numbers are down from a nighttime peak of 108 cfs at 10:15 p.m. on Nov. 21. This reading is also slightly down from 84.5 cfs at 11 a.m. on Nov. 15.



Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conservancy District boards discuss gravel pit lease extension — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt;

At a Nov. 15 joint work session, the boards of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Water Conser- vancy District (SJWCD) met to discuss the terms of a lease exten- sion agreement that would give the Weber family another year to operate the gravel pit at the Run- ning Iron Ranch. Both PAWSD and SJWCD are the technical landlords of the property, which is the same site being proposed to house a reservoir commonly referred to as the San Juan River Headwaters Project (SJRHP) or Dry Gulch.

In April, PAWSD originally decided to not extend the Webers’ lease, citing reasons like pricing, the benefit to PAWSD customers and the reclamation timeline of the site. However, in September, the board reconsidered after the Webers offered new lease exten- sion terms. In the new terms, Andy and Kathy Weber proposed that the lease be extended for one year at a cost of $48,137.78 with the po- tential to renegotiate or extend the lease at the end of the year. The lease terms also include that the Webers would complete structural restoration on the current gravel pit site within the year.

San Juan Basin Public Health offering free well testing for #PFAS chemicals — The #PagosaSprings Sun

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org.

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Megan Graham). Here’s an excerpt:

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to address contaminants in drinking water. The funding will be used to provide free testing for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which is a broad group of manmade chemicals in industry and consumer products sometimes known as “forever chemicals” because they do not easily break down in the environment or the human body…

La Plata County and Archuleta County residents can now have their private wells sampled and tested for PFAS chemicals at no cost. The program is targeting areas in the counties close to fa- cilities where PFAS chemicals are known to be used or stored, but all well owners in both counties are encouraged to have their wells tested. Facilities that may have stored or used PFAS chemicals in- clude airports, landfills and some fire stations. If you receive water from a municipality, water district or shared delivery system, contact your water provider for PFAS infor- mation. Several local public water providers have already tested their systems for PFAS contamination. SJBPH Environmental Health staff will be available to discuss test results, which will be processed by a certified independent labora- tory and can take up to 45 days to receive. Staff will assist well owners with determining next steps based on the test results. To have your well water tested, please contact us at eh@sjbpublichealth.org or (970) 335-2060…

There are several education events planned to help share in- formation on PFAS chemicals and testing options. Join us from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Durango Public Library, 1900 E. Third Ave., Durango. Additional education events in Archuleta and La Plata counties will be an- nounced in the weeks to come.

Saving the #RioGrande Cutthroat Trout: Beavers show the way — @AlmosaCitizen

Construction of Beaver Dam analogue Photo courtesy of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project.

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Owen Woods):


THE Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the Rio Grande National Forest’s only native trout. It needs help. Biologists from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Rio Grande National Forest are trying to bring the cutthroat back to its full glory, but they need help, too. So who do the humans look to for help?

Easy answer: Beavers. 

Jason Remshardt, wildlife and fisheries program manager for the Rio Grande National Forest, recently gave a presentation on the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. He is the only fish biologist in the RGNF. He talked about the effort to create and conserve habitat for the cutthroat, and how the answer might just come from nature’s finest engineers. 

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout used to exist in just about every part of the Rio Grande basin, but due to a wide range of circumstances, these fish only occupy a fraction of the area they used to. Part of conservation and successful reintroduction is habitat restoration. Right now, the experts are looking at nature’s experts. These projects are imitating “what the beaver dams are doing,” said Remshardt. 

These “Beaver Dam Analogues” or “Temporary Wood Grade Structures,” or TWGS, (pronounced like twigs), are designed to help back up water and create a lively wetland habitat that encourages healthy biodiversity not just for the cutthroat, but the entire ecosystem. 

“Beaver Dam Analogues” or “Temporary Wood Grade Structures,” or TWGS, (pronounced like twigs), are designed to help back up water and create a lively wetland habitat that encourages healthy biodiversity not just for the cutthroat, but the entire ecosystem. They are being employed in what’s called “Process-Based Restoration.” These man-made structures are relatively easy and straightforward to make. They are built with natural resources such as wooden posts, willow branches, aspen branches, and rocks. Though they are simple to create, Remshardt said “we’re not as good at building them” as the beavers. Photo courtesy Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project

“It’s a technique that’s become increasingly popular across the western U.S. within the last few years,” said Connor Born, project manager for the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project. 

The man-made structures can help to create a more complex habitat that encourages a healthier fish population. Born says that this can mean “deeper pools that serve as low-flow refuge and slower moving water for younger fish. The structures can also benefit surrounding vegetation, provide fire breaks, increase stream shading, and grazing forage.” 

Cutthroat trout populations often live in smaller streams that don’t have much water. According to Born, “The structures can help attenuate water in these smaller streams to provide more consistent flow and temperature during periods of drought.”

Cat Creek near La Jara Reservoir once had populations of the cutthroat and beavers. For unclear reasons, the beavers left that area. Their departure, Born says, “paired with prolonged drought conditions, caused flows to become much more intermittent, eventually leading to the suspected die-off” of the cutthroat trout population there. 

So far, the groups undertaking this project have implemented 10 of these structures in the Rio Grande National Forest. Remshardt noted that “if they last for a few years, that’s great. If the beavers take them over, that’s great. If they disappear, then you haven’t lost that much. You’ve just lost like half a day’s work.” 

According to Born, the first 10 structures are in the headwaters of Saguache Creek in Saguache Park. There are 12 more ready for construction in the coming year that will be built along Big Springs Creek, a cutthroat stream near Saguache.

Born said that the restoration structures can function without beavers, but the organizations are hoping to find places where the two can combine forces. 

Beavers in the national forest are alive and thriving. Remshardt says that the RGNF is happy with current populations, but there is room for expansion and improvement. With that, the benefits of beaver dams create healthy, expansive wetlands. Beaver dams and habitats also make great fire breaks

These animals, however, are considered a nuisance species to certain areas of the Valley. Beavers can be troublesome to infrastructure like irrigation canals and roads. 

“There’s this stark contrast of existing as a pest species on the Valley floor while being highly beneficial up in the headwaters. The logical solution,” Born said, “is an efficient, legal, and humane way to translocate them to areas where their engineering is more appreciated and doesn’t impact infrastructure.”

Relocating the beavers pairs well with the restoration efforts. Born said that the structures may encourage beavers to stay in areas that “have habitat that would otherwise be too degraded.”

Remshardt says there’s plenty of space to relocate any problematic, or displaced wood-chopping rodents. 

“We’re ready to take them and we have places all over the forest to take them. Plenty of places we can put them,” Remshardt said. 

Identifying where beavers are and where beavers aren’t is a part of the job that requires a lot of work from a lot of people. Software like iNaturalist allows anyone to report animal sightings and tracks to help in identification. These reports can help biologists like Remshardt identify populations and locations to help further studies and surveys. 

Helping the beavers help us really boils down to, Remshardt said, the fact that “beavers are the best at doing their own work.”

Photo courtesy of Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project

Surveys and History

The largest effort for studying these fish are surveys. Remshardt said they conduct surveys on every population of RGCT about every five years. These surveys cover at least 40 streams in the national forest and take a large number of people to conduct. The surveys gather the number of fish and their sizes, take genetic samples, and conduct health surveys. 

Most of the streams and lakes are easy to access, but the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout lives in the alpine, too. Remshardt said almost every drainage and lake in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range has cutthroat populations. So, in order to keep these high mountain lakes stocked and healthy, they conduct High Mountain Lake Airplane Stocking. A video from CPW shows just how these operations are done. 

Conservation of the cutthroat, Remshardt said, remains the most intensive and expensive project. Ongoing research for more cutthroat introductions to expand them into their historic ranges is an ongoing and expansive effort. Currently, an effort to successfully reintroduce the cutthroat to the Sand Creek drainages at the Great Sand Dunes National Park is taking place. The project first started in 2005. 

The Rio Grande cutthroat is the only trout native to the San Luis Valley. Evidence suggests it was a native fish to Lake Alamosa 700,000 years ago. Photo credit: Ryan Michelle Scavo

blog post by Trout Unlimited’s Rio Grande Basin project manager Kevin Terry breaks down the history of this project. You can also read the USGS’s in-depth report on this effort here.

CPW estimates that the RGCT occupies just 12 percent of its native habitat. Biologists estimate that 127 “conservation populations” exist in Colorado and New Mexico. The cutthroats’ range has seen a dramatic decrease over the last 150 years. Some of the factors that have led to this decline are habitat changes, climate change, drought, water quality, hybridization with non-native Rainbow Trout and other cutthroat trout species, as well as aggressive competition from Brown and Brook trout. 

Evidence suggests that the cutthroat trout thrived in healthy populations in Lake Alamosa, a lake that existed for over three million years. 

The Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited “are hoping to identify both at-risk RGCT populations and future locations for reintroduction and enhance the habitat using these restoration techniques,” Born said.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

#Snowpack news November 27, 2022 #CRWUA2022

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 26, 2022 via the NRCS.
Colorado snowpack basin-filled map November 26, 2022 via the NRCS.

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: the Compact is signed — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

The Compact’s Signers. Photo via InkStain

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

The final day of the Colorado River Compact negotiations seemed almost anticlimactic.

WORDSMITHING “UNPERFECTED RIGHTS”?

Unable to reach a final agreement on Article VIII on Thursday evening, the Commission met again on Friday morning, Nov. 24, 1922, at 10 AM. They began with a discussion of “unperfected rights.”  The concept behind the article was that rights that were then using water would not be impacted by the compact but once storage of at least 5,000,000 acre-feet of capacity was available, perfected rights on the lower river, like the Imperial Irrigation District, would be solely satisfied by that storage and would no longer have the right to call for water being used by junior rights upstream of Lee Ferry. All unperfected rights, including what Hoover call “inchoate rights” – those that were being planned but were not yet using water – could only consume water apportioned to the basin in which they were situated.

There were many of these inchoate rights out there, including George Maxwell’s Arizona Highline Canal which would eventually evolve into today’s Central Arizona Project. There was also the Girand Project, a proposed large private power dam in what is now the western Grand Canyon, and Los Angeles was in the early stages of exploring an aqueduct from the Colorado River. The compact would be useless if these types of projects had potential claims on the water uses above Lee Ferry. The commission finally, but reluctantly, agreed to:

“Present perfected rights to the beneficial use of waters of the Colorado River System are unimpaired by this compact. Whenever storage capacity of 5,000,000 acre-feet shall have been provided on the main Colorado River within or for the benefit of the Lower Basin, then claims of such rights, if any, by appropriators or users of water in the Lower Basin against appropriators or users of water in the Upper Basin shall attach to and be satisfied from water that may be stored not in conflict with Article III. All other rights to beneficial use of waters of the Colorado River System shall be satisfied solely from the water apportioned to that Basin in which they are situate.”

New Mexico’s Steven Davis summed up the attitude of many of the commissioners when he declared “I will register my vote as a ‘yes’ on that article. I do it only because to my mind it is the least objectionable of the attempts that have been made to frame the idea expressed in it, and not because I approve it.” Before approving the compact, they made at least two more changes that morning. They agreed to drop the introductory sentence in Article III and they dropped the definition of “apportionment” in Article II. (Note: at some point they also changed the accounting year in III(d) from July 1 -June 30 to October 1- September 30, but there is no mention of it in the minutes.)

The Commission held one more meeting that afternoon, its 27th formal meeting. It was mainly for housekeeping matters. They refused a request by Arizona’s Norviel to either support or not oppose the Girand Project that was then pending before the Federal Power Commission. Instead, they agreed that Hoover should send a letter asking that any future power permits be made subject to the compact. They then passed a resolution supporting the construction of a large dam on the Colorado River by the U. S. Government. The two actions were related. Hoover, Arthur Powell Davis, and McClure all opposed the Girand Project because they believed it would interfere with the proposed Boulder Canyon Project.

REFLECTING ON WHAT THEY ACCOMPLISHED

Before ending the meeting, they took time to congratulate one another on what they had accomplished. On behalf of his fellow commissioners Delph Carpenter, who nearly three years ago had suggested a compact be negotiated, made the following remarks for the record.

Carpenter went on to thank Hoover:

Hoover thanked all those present noting.

Hoover went on to add that the “days of romance of the West are gone, and the job of western man is one of construction.” Adding, “It is possible this will standout as one of the landmarks of Western development.”

The commissioners then made the trek through the snow into Santa Fe where they signed the compact at the Palace of Governors.

When buying a home — think about #water — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette

Mrs. Gulch’s Blue gramma “Eyelash” patch August 28, 2021.

Click the link to read the article on The Colorado Springs Gazette website (Susan Beckman and Andrea Cole). Here’s an excerpt:

Finding and paying for water is no easy task for these developers and their communities, leading to potential water restrictions as existing resources are stretched to the limit. In addition, as communities seek to encourage lower water usage increased costs are often times passed on to the residents. As a result of these costs, many homebuyers have shifted their focus to water and affordability. Wise homebuyers understand how important the precious resource of water is to the sustainability and survival of their community and are seeking places to live that have water supply plans and water demand management systems in place that serve as a foundation for the community as a whole…

Some of the things homebuyers should consider when looking for a community with a strong water demand management foundation include:

Innovate land planning: Look for a community with thoughtful lot sizes and focused landscape areas. Each of the new homes should be designed with landscaped yard that come with a water budget, water efficient landscaping and irrigation system that is designed to minimize the use of water. Each home should also come with installation specifications that require all new construction to be equipped with water efficient fixtures and appliances linked to new technologies.

Dual water metering: Seek out modern technology that puts the homeowner in charge of the water needs and water usage. This includes separate meters for indoor (less expensive water) and outdoor (more expensive water). This takes the guess work out of how much water that a homeowner is using. The homeowner is provided technology, and a phone app, that provides real-time feedback of their water use. This tool empowers residents to monitor their water usage, it also allows them to differentiate the water that is being used outside and the water being used inside.

Smart irrigation control systems: New homes should come equipped with a smart irrigation controller (Rachio Smart Irrigation System is an example) that integrates a dual water metering system into each home. These controllers help to optimize outdoor watering patterns and gives the plants in the yard the water they need to be healthy. The systems also monitor the weather and automatically adjust the outdoor watering schedule based on local and current weather conditions, so you are not watering your lawn during a rainstorm. The smart irrigation system also alerts a homeowner to water leaks and the homeowner can shut off the water remotely to avoid a flood.

Drought tolerant plant selections and landscape guidelines: In conjunction with the Denver Botanic Gardens, some Colorado communities have identified a set of outdoor plants for use by residents that are attractive, require less water and are drought tolerant (bird friendly options are also available). Landscape reviews by community districts also provide residents with ways to manage their home’s water budget to avoid use of more expensive water without compromising landscaping design that can be enjoyed by residents. Some communities will also provide classes to educate residents on gardening and water management.

Investing in resources: Forward thinking communities have invested extensive resources in home builder and customer education about water use, installed WaterSense approved fixtures and have implemented an innovative water budget-based rate structure that provides incentives to customers to manage their outdoor water use within a water budget.

Green Mountain Falls Trustees Approve New Water Pump Station — The Mountain Jackpot News

By Smallbones – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10986442

Click the link to read the article on The Mountain Jackpot News website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees approved plans last week for a new vastly expanded water pump station, being developed by  Colorado Springs Utilities.

According to a town staff report,  “the new pump station will be located at 10685 Hondo Ave. and will ensure reliable water service for residents and businesses in Green Mountain Falls. It will also provide a safer and more readily accessible working space for CSU, enabling more efficient maintenance and repair activities. CSU is currently finalizing an easement agreement with the property owner to allow the pump station to be built on the site.”

The project was recently discussed by the planning commission. At last week’s trustees meeting, the elected leaders had an extensive discussion with representatives of the project applicant, Dewberry Engineers. The trustees support the project goals, with the need for better infrastructure and the fact that the current pump station, located at the base of several prime trail areas, is outdated. The main concern dealt with a staging area for the preliminary construction efforts. Following considerable discussion, the staging area will occur at intersection of Ute Pass Avenue and Olathe Street. Not all the trustees were on board with the details, especially with the pre-construction staging area, which could involve a number of vehicles. But the Dewberry representatives stressed that they had limited options in GMF due to the small roadways.

The project will get underway sometime in 2023.

Article: Growing polarization around #ClimateChange on social media — Nature Climate Change #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on the Nature Communications website (Max FalkenbergAlessandro GaleazziMaddalena TorricelliNiccolò Di MarcoFrancesca LarosaMadalina SasAmin MekacherWarren PearceFabiana ZolloWalter Quattrociocchi & Andrea Baronchelli)

Climate change and political polarization are two of the twenty-first century’s critical socio-political issues. Here we investigate their intersection by studying the discussion around the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP) using Twitter data from 2014 to 2021. First, we reveal a large increase in ideological polarization during COP26, following low polarization between COP20 and COP25. Second, we show that this increase is driven by growing right-wing activity, a fourfold increase since COP21 relative to pro-climate groups. Finally, we identify a broad range of ‘climate contrarian’ views during COP26, emphasizing the theme of political hypocrisy as a topic of cross-ideological appeal; contrarian views and accusations of hypocrisy have become key themes in the Twitter climate discussion since 2019. With future climate action reliant on negotiations at COP27 and beyond, our results highlight the importance of monitoring polarization and its impacts in the public climate discourse.

a, Total number of Twitter posts using the term ‘COP2x’ created each day. Inset: Google Trends (GT) popularity scores for ‘COP2x’, with country-specific scores showing the local enhancement of public engagement. b, The retweet distributions for COP21 and COP26. The total numbers of retweets are shown in the top right. Extended time periods and other COPs are shown in Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2. (Click for a larger view.)

The Karuk’s Innate Relationship with Fire: Adapting to #ClimateChange on the #KlamathRiver — NOAA

Controlled burn in the Klamath River watershed. A 2011 controlled burn in a tan oak gathering area creates defensible space below a nearby home while increasing the quality of the acorns by interrupting the life cycle of the acorn weevil. Image: Mid Klamath Watershed Council.

Click the link to read the article on the NOAA webiste:

Members of the Karuk Tribe in northern California maintain that the age-old tradition of prescribed burning holds the answer to climate adaptation planning in the Klamath River range.

Fire is foundational to the Karuk Tribe, who live and manage 1.048 million acres of their aboriginal lands along the Klamath and Salmon Rivers in northern California. By removing accumlated fuels, fire makes room for new growth and change. This renewal helps ensure the quality of traditional foods and cultural materials and serves as a medium of cultural education. Ceremonies surrounding fire strengthen the Tribe’s social networks and enhance its members’ physical and mental health.

The Tribe’s proactive cultural use of fire also protects the Klamath River basin by reducing the availability of forest fuels—and thus reducing the risk of high-severity wildfire that can threaten people, their homes and businesses, and natural systems such as forests and wetlands near rivers and streams.

Wildland systems in the Klamath River range have evolved alongside Karuk management practices for thousands of years. Tribal families continue to use traditional forest management techniques—including low-intensity prescribed burns—to cultivate the forest to become a more productive resource for food and cultural materials and to reduce the availability of forest fuels. Tribal programs support and expand upon their work.

The map shows the Karuk Tribe aboriginal land base in northern California. Credit: NOAA

Traditional Karuk fire use

“Fire is a cultural resource.”—Leaf Hillman, Karuk Director of Natural Resources

Beargrass—or panyúrar in Karuk—is an important species for basket weavers and regalia makers. The blades that grow the first year after a fire are considered best for basket weaving. Panyúrar can be stimulated by fire, and is fire-adapted in that it can sprout from rhizomes following fire or re-establish by seed. At the same time, panyúrar can be damaged by fires that burn too hot. Photo credit: NOAA

Indigenous burning is increasingly recognized as a component of the ecosystem and a restoration technique. Fire is important for restoring grasslands for elk, managing for food sources such as tan and black oak acorns, maintaining quality basketry materials, and producing smoke that can shade the river for fish. Karuk fire regimes generate what is known as “pyrodiversity”—the biodiversity consequences of fire management—on the landscape by extending the burning season and shortening the intervals of fire return.

The multitude of foods, materials, and other products that come from Karuk lands are evidence of the profound diversity of fire regimes that are required to maintain relationships with hundreds of animal, plant, and mushroom species.

Tanoak acorns (xuntápan) are a staple Native food for many indigenous people and are also vital for numerous wildlife species. Additionally, the roots of tanoak trees support the growth of another important food, tanoak mushrooms. Tanoak (xunyêep) is very susceptible to high-intensity fire, but benefits from cultural burning that decreases tree and acorn pests and reduces competitive vegetation. Photo credit: NOAA

Since European contact, non-native use and management of the region has severely impacted the Karuk people’s access to cultural, ceremonial, and food resources. The region’s changing climate has exacerbated these effects, and the Karuk are now experiencing a decline in the abundance of key species, including salmon, acorns, huckleberries, hazel, and willow. Natural disasters and hazards ranging from increasing frequency of high-severity wildfire to flooding and mudslides are on the rise—generating a range of negative human health outcomes for the Karuk people.

Revitalizing Traditional Ecological Knowledge

In order to adapt to these and other ongoing challenges, the Karuk people are working to revitalize the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) inextricably tied to their ability to physically apply resource management practices. Fire has been a primary tool in Karuk wildland management systems, and the Tribe maintains that the age-old tradition of prescribed burning holds the answer to climate adaptation planning in the Klamath River range.

The Tribe has researched and published two reports concerning social and environmental climate changes and the long-term effects the Karuk people are facing with regard to knowledge sovereignty and the vulnerability of their TEK, supported by the 2015 Tribal Cooperative Landscape Conservation Program administered by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program.

One report—Karuk Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the Need for Knowledge Sovereignty—emphasizes two key concepts:

  • First, that TEK is not an isolated application, but a living system that requires ongoing practice in the landscape for survival. Preserving knowledge sovereignty is fundamentally about Karuk cultural management because this knowledge is embedded in, and emerges from, the practices of traditional management.
  • Second, it is impossible—as well as unethical—to attempt to remove TEK from its original context. Efforts to extract knowledge are a form of cultural appropriation that erodes the very foundations of tribal life. Knowledge and management techniques are at the core of tribal identity, culture, spiritual practice, and subsistence economies. Karuk people need fire in order to restore the land, strengthen cultural relationships, revitalize ceremonial education, and protect all who inhabit the Klamath River region from the adverse effects of high-severity wildfire.
Traditional Karuk acorn basket. Photo credit: NOAA

A follow-up report, entitled Retaining Knowledge Sovereignty, stresses the federal obligation to maintain Karuk knowledge sovereignty due to the likelihood of cultural appropriation and misuse of Karuk TEK. For example, the U.S. Forest Service, a federal agency, makes decisions about prescribed burning within the Klamath and Six Rivers National Forests. The report provides strategies to promote traditional knowledge sovereignty, including reference to the Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives. Tribal leaders believe that it is possible to create a meaningful collaboration with the Forest Service, the Klamath National Forest, and the Six Rivers National Forest that upholds and strengthens tribal sovereignty and recognizes the legitimacy of the Karuk’s practical ability to carry out traditional management to restore the Klamath to a safe and productive state of health.

Climate Vulnerability Assessment

In addition to the reports mentioned above, the Tribe has also undertaken and published the Karuk Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA), which addresses vulnerabilities to Karuk traditional foods and cultural use species, tribal program infrastructure, and management authority and political status that result from the increasing frequency of high-severity fire. The CVA makes the case that Karuk tribal knowledge and management principles regarding the use of fire can be utilized to reduce the likelihood of high-severity fires and thereby protect public, as well as tribal, trust resources.

References: 

Story Credit: 

Aja Conrad, Miakah Nix, and Kathy Lynn, Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Project/University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program

Banner Image Credit: 

A 2011 controlled burn in a tan oak gathering area creates defensible space below a nearby home while increasing the quality of the acorns by interrupting the life cycle of the acorn weevil. Image: Mid Klamath Watershed Council. Used with permission

For Many, the #GlobalWarming Confab That Rose in the Egyptian Desert Was a Mirage — Inside Climate News

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT – NOVEMBER 09: Two conference participants from Tuvalu take a lunch break as they attend the UNFCCC COP27 climate conference on November 09, 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference is bringing together political leaders and representatives from 190 countries to discuss climate-related topics including climate change adaptation, climate finance, decarbonisation, agriculture and biodiversity. The conference is running from November 6-18. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24112022/for-many-the-global-warming-confab-that-rose-in-the-egyptian-desert-was-a-mirage/, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here.  Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn):

Amid fighting over croissants and climate, the UN’s COP27 mirrored a world that can’t come together to break free of fossil fuels and avoid a catastrophic future.

The madness of COP27 started at the airport, where 50 diesel buses idled under the hot sun with doors wide open and air conditioners blasting until they headed out, often with just a handful of attendees aboard, delivering them to a far-flung network of hotels sprawled along the reef-fringed coast of the southern Sinai Peninsula. 

Each day the fleet of buses drove hundreds of miles in endless rounds, spewing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and soot into the air as they rolled past expanses of partly excavated desert, where more resort hotels and strip malls continue to spring up.

The carbon footprint of last year’s COP26 in Glasgow was 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide. At a price of $100 per ton that adds up to more than $10 million dollars. Might investing that money in green infrastructure upfront, before the conference, leave a lasting legacy better than the mountains of plastic waste produced at the talks each year? That conversation isn’t on the agenda.

The buses rolled on. Police cars clustered at the intersections where the bus doors open to admit new riders with their COP27 credentials flapping in the desert wind. Every quarter mile or so, black-suited men carrying clipboards stand along the road, seeking out shade under scruffy palm trees, monitoring who knows what. 

The final approach to the conference halls was through an industrial district lined by miles of tall chain link fences with surveillance cameras clearly visible every few hundred feet—we are watching you, and we want you to know it, the Egyptian government seemed to be saying, a reminder that COP27 was held in an authoritarian state that has jailed thousands of people for speaking out against the government, and that reportedly installed spyware in the official app for the conference.

Holding the global climate conference here at a time when the links between human rights and climate justice are becoming clear felt like a slap in the face to some climate and justice activists. 

“This dystopic COP laid bare the steep challenges, but also the inherent connections, between climate justice and human rights,” said Jean Su, energy and justice director and senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The credibility of these climate talks are at stake when they are hosted in countries that violate basic human rights and continue fossil fuel expansion in spite of climate science.”

COPs have previously been criticized for greenwashing, said Matt Henry, an assistant professor of environmental humanities at the University of Wyoming who studies climate justice. “But this year’s meeting under a repressive authoritarian regime amounts to the greenwashing of human rights,” he said. 

Food Fights and Climate Justice

It’s Monday, Nov. 14, the start of the second week of climate talks, and I’ve joined about 40,000 people who have gathered in this unlikely location to discuss the fate of the world, and, perhaps, to finally take decisive climate action. Most of the delegates know the latest climate science reports say that, without immediate and deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts, the planet is heading toward a hellishly hot future, with certain death for thousands and indescribable suffering for millions more from heatwaves, floods, fires and crop failures.

To avert the worst, the world has to stop the unchecked burning of fossil fuels, but so far, after six days of talks behind closed doors, in plenaries and corridors, not much has happened, so some news reports instead focused on shortages of snacks and cold beverages, a manifestation of the sense of entitlement that is one of the many roots of the climate crisis.

The food fights represented a concerning lack of collegiality that can hamper progress in negotiations, said Cara Augustenborg, an assistant professor of environmental studies at University College Dublin, Ireland, who attended COP27 as a member of Ireland’s climate change Advisory Council.

“I was in a line where the snacks were running out,” she said. “People got very aggressive and cut the line to try and get to the last croissant. I couldn’t help think, ‘Wow, if this is how we treat each other for a croissant, how on earth are we supposed to negotiate a global climate treaty?’”

The scuffle over snacks hints at some of what is at the root of the climate crisis, said Amit Singh, a climate activist in the United Kingdom. Research shows that the richest 10 percent of people produce half the world’s individual-based greenhouse gas emissions, and they always want more, he said.

“Greed and power have been built together,” he said. “There’s a long history of it and it comes from a geographical set of locations. It comes from places that have colonized the world, such as Europe, the U.K., and are still colonizing the world right now.”

At a Monday event about halting deforestation, carbon offset traders roamed the U.S. Center of the climate summit handing out business cards as they sought to cash in on the millions of dollars earmarked for such schemes in the Inflation Reduction Act. Outside, forest defenders and Indigenous groups protested, warning that the programs will result in more displacements of Native peoples.

Returning Indigenous Lands Helps the Climate, But Native Peoples Can’t Negotiate Without It

Negotiators released draft texts on Tuesday morning, Nov. 5, but they dealt with issues deep in the weeds that have little to do with the big questions of whether to phase out fossil fuels more rapidly to maintain a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or how to help developing nations that are being hit with the worst climate disasters but have done little to cause them. Nonetheless, experts parsed every word for meaning and signs of progress, while pundits explained how world events like the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected the climate talks.

Maybe the conferences have just grown too large to tackle the issue. The directory mapping the venue shows how participation in the climate talks has ballooned over the years. It lists countries, regions within countries, cities within regions, associations of cities, associations of countries and industries, international associations of sub-associations, all of them bringing their own representatives to participate in the climate side events that seem to dominate the space at the expense of focusing on the actual talks.

The entrance plaza was swarmed by Indigenous people from around the world, once again unified in response to weak global climate policy. Passionate speeches and angry faces broadcast impatience with the U.N.’s grinding bureaucratic process. Nearly everyone is wearing red to protest land taken by colonizers, and stolen Indigenous children. Those with no red of their own got a bright scarlet sash that they tie on their heads or hands.

Indigenous leaders rallied in the main plaza at the Sharm el-Sheikh to put a spotlight on the need for climate justice at COP27. Credit: Bob Berwyn

“What do we want? Land back!” was a call-and-response mantra. Speakers representing tribes from every continent but Antarctica explained how science shows that restoring Indigenous control of land that was stolen from them is crucial to building a more just world that will also help stabilize the climate with more sustainable use of resources, a concept that is now even supported by the World Bank, hardly a hotbed of radical activism.

Yet, within the COP27 process, there is little room for meaningful Indigenous participation, said Eriel Deranger, a Dënesųłiné climate and civil rights activist and director of Indigenous Climate Action from Alberta, where Indigenous lands have been exploited for fossil fuels.

“There’s flowery language to recognize human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights,” she said. “But it’s watered-down, weak language with no processes or mechanisms … that actually give us seats at the table. Right now it’s just a lot of hot air.”

Currently Indigenous people also don’t always have the ability at home to challenge false climate solutions or projects that violate Indigenous rights, she added.

“Our independent sovereign nations, as defined by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are not being respected or recognized,” she said. “We have to fight tooth and nail to get accreditation to participate in these spaces. We’re still observers, and not true decision makers.” 

One of the biggest challenges, she said, “is that, in order to be recognized as a nation by the U.N., Indignous people must have land.

“Our people have been dispossessed of our land through different forms of colonization, she said. “Until our people have land back and are able to assert ourselves as sovereign nations with land, the U.N. will never recognize us. So I think it starts at home in our states, to rematriate or lands back to our peoples.”

Mixed Messages

Fossil fuel lobbyists were reported to arrive at COP27 in record numbers. They roamed every nook and cranny of the conference searching for new prospects, especially in the Global South, where they see vast and as-yet untapped reserves and hungry markets in the rapidly developing countries of Africa and Asia. With fossil gas, they promised those countries they can have a safe climate and economic growth at the same time. But many of the lobbyists’ prospective customers, even in the Global South, say science shows that is more a fairytale than a solution.

But it’s clear from the hordes of lobbyists and their messaging that they have not given up on efforts to write the narrative for the negotiations, which calls into question the U.N.’s idea that the industry most responsible for the problem can somehow be part of the solution.

TOPSHOT – Climate activists deploy banners as they stage a protest inside the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, during the COP27 climate conference in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of the same name, on November 12, 2022. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)

Activists from Africa said they want energy, yes, but many of them want to leapfrog past fossil fuels to a renewable energy future. They accused their own governments of making deals with oil and gas companies that will benefit ruling classes at the expense of people who depend on forests and coastal fisheries for their livelihoods.

Still, only a tiny percentage of the thousands at the conference watched the raucous protests in the main plaza. Most days there were more people clustered around the coffee shops at various pavilions, smiling,taking selfies and enjoying the Starbucks vibe, while nearby, scientists described the coming apocalypse, showing, for example, how much of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket, will be under water in 2100 even if all greenhouse gas emissions miraculously ceased today.

Why go outside into the bright heat when you can stay inside the wonderful climate mall, where the air is cooled by row upon row of car-size air conditioners that are hidden out of sight except from the local workers taking cigarette breaks. There, the units hum and groan and creak and the air swooshes in and out and it feels like the last gasp of a dying planet.

Little Progress Over Decades at a Time When Every Year Counts

On Friday, an end times atmosphere settled over the proceedings. Global solidarity seemed to have frayed, as some countries started to blame others for the lack of progress, while official communiques from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change gloss over the tensions with diplomatic language. Vast waves of information wash over the attendees—more data, verbiage, images and messages than a single human could reasonably process in a year, much less a couple of weeks. Any expectations for a last-minute save-the-climate plan are fading.

Instead of asking themselves why the process has struggled for 30 years, delegates blamed the host country for running an unorganized conference. There’s talk of backing off the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and no sign that negotiators will formally acknowledge that the only way to reach that goal is to end the uncontrolled use of coal, oil and gas.

The final language needs approval from every country at the table, and there are a handful that have made it clear, publicly and privately, that they intend to keep producing fossil fuels until the bitter end. A comment attributed to a Saudi official urges the world not to target sources of energy, but to focus on emissions.

Petrostates from every region of the Global North were in Sharm el-Sheikh—Norway from Europe and Canada from North America—that have all blocked language critical of fossil fuels at one time or another.The United States has been blocking effective climate policy since it failed to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and more recently, when the Trump administration used the COP process to try and advance the interests of U.S. fossil fuel industries, so the blame-Egypt card seems misplayed.

A reminder of the choices that global society has to make about the climate: Delaying action on reducing emissions commits the world to live with severe consequences. Rapid action now means a more habitable world for all. There is no going back. Choose wisely. Credit: Ed Hawkins via via his Twitter feed

Community Agriculture Alliance: The Colorado Water Plan — Steamboat Pilot & Today #COWaterPlan

The eight major river basins, plus the Denver metro area, are shown on this map from the South Platte River Basin Roundtable. Each basin has its own roundtable, made up of volunteers, to address local water issues. Credit: Colorado Water Conservation Board

Click the link to read the article on the Steamboat Pilot & Today website (Patrick Stanko). Here’s an excerpt

You cannot look at the news today and not see a story on the Colorado River and its low flows and levels of the two major reservoirs in the United States…The goal of the nine Colorado roundtables is to drive solutions from the bottom up for this and the other eight compact demands Colorado is facing. To find out more about all of Colorado Interstate Water Compacts, please visit WaterEducationColorado.org/publications-and-radio/citizen-guides/citizens-guide-to-colorados-interstate-compacts/

Your local roundtable is the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable (YWG BRT), which brings together 36 local water users and stakeholders to drive local solutions up to the state and federal levels. These stakeholders represent water providers, municipalities and industrial, recreational, environmental and agricultural communities. They work together to collaboratively find solutions to water supply gaps using a committee structure. The Big River committee reviews the issues facing the Colorado River and how it would affect the Yampa, White and Green Rivers and provides the full YWG BRT with positions and white papers. The Grants Committee reviews Colorado State grant requests for projects that could help reduce the water supply gaps within the basin. This funding has helped projects like the Maybell Canal, the city of Craig White Water Park, the White River Algae study, Walker Ditch Headgate, the Crosho Simon Dam outlet replacement and other projects. Please refer to the YWB BRT website at YampaWhiteGreen.com

The YWG BRT drives this bottom-up collaboration to the state level through the Basin Implementation Plan and the Inter-basin Compact Committee (IBCC). The Basin Implementation Plan (BIP) was released by the YWG BRT back in 2015 and updated in 2021. The BIP has the eight goals of the YWG BRT to reduce the water supply gaps in the basin. Also included in this plan are the activities to meet those goals, the changing challenges in the basin, and a list of projects that if implemented could reduce the supply gaps the basin is facing…

All this local collaboration has led to the update to the Colorado Water Plan, which is scheduled to be released on Jan. 24. The Colorado Water Plan has four action areas — vibrant communities, thriving watersheds, resilient planning and robust agriculture. CWCB also in the plan has identified 50 CWCB partner actions that can help support the water plan and 50 agency actions that CWCB and collaborating agencies will take to support local projects, conservation and wise-water development.

Colorado Water Plan 2023 update cover. Click the image to go to the CWCB website for the update.

The Water in You: #Water and the Human Body — USGS

​​​​​​​Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going. Sources/Usage: Public Domain.

Click the link to read the article on the USGS website:

Think of what you need to survive, really just survive. Food? Water? Air? Facebook? Naturally, I’m going to concentrate on water here. Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.

According to Mitchell and others (1945), the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%.

Each day humans must consume a certain amount of water to survive. Of course, this varies according to age and gender, and also by where someone lives. Generally, an adult male needs about 3 liters (3.2 quarts) per day while an adult female needs about 2.2 liters (2.3 quarts) per day. All of the water a person needs does not have to come from drinking liquids, as some of this water is contained in the food we eat.

Water serves a number of essential functions to keep us all going

  • A vital nutrient to the life of every cell, acts first as a building material.
  • It regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
  • The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream;
  • It assists in flushing waste mainly through urination
  • acts as a shock absorber for brain, spinal cord, and fetus
  • forms saliva
  • lubricates joints

According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz, Neuroscience, pediatrics, Allegheny University, different people have different percentages of their bodies made up of water. Babies have the most, being born at about 78%. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65%. In adult men, about 60% of their bodies are water. However, fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body than men, so they have about 55% of their bodies made of water. Thus:

  • Babies and kids have more water (as a percentage) than adults.
  • Women have less water than men (as a percentage).
  • People with more fatty tissue have less water than people with less fatty tissue (as a percentage).

There just wouldn’t be any you, me, or Fido the dog without the existence of an ample liquid water supply on Earth. The unique qualities and properties of water are what make it so important and basic to life. The cells in our bodies are full of water. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes.

Water’s “stickiness” (from surface tension) plays a part in our body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.

Sources and more information:

#Drought news (November 25, 2022): Early-season #snowpack remained mostly favorable west of the Continental Divide

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor website.

Click the link to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

Cold, dry weather prevailed nearly nationwide, with a few exceptions. Notably, mid-November snow squalls developed downwind of the Great Lakes, resulting in localized totals of 2 to 6 feet or more. In addition, precipitation fell in parts of the South, East, and Midwest, primarily early in the drought-monitoring period, although most liquid-equivalent totals were under 2 inches. Snow broadly blanketed the Midwest and interior Northeast, especially on November 15-16, although amounts were mostly light to moderately heavy. Meanwhile, deep snow from a previous storm remained on the ground in much of Montana and North Dakota. As the period progressed, rain lingered in the western Gulf Coast region. Elsewhere, negligible precipitation fell across the western half of the country. On the Plains, the combination of cold weather and soil moisture shortages maintained significant stress on rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 10°F below normal nationwide, except in the Desert Southwest and along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts…

High Plains

Following the previous week’s storm, snow and ice remained on the ground in parts of Montana and the Dakotas. In Bismarck, North Dakota, where the snow depth peaked at 17 inches on November 11, nine inches remained on the ground 10 days later. The freezing and frozen precipitation provided beneficial moisture for rangeland, pastures, and winter grains. Still, drought concerns persisted, especially in drier areas across the southern half of the region. On November 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted topsoil moisture ranging from 63% very short to short in North Dakota to 87% in Nebraska. On the same date, at least 40% of the winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition in Colorado (52%), Kansas (40%), and Nebraska (40%). Although any changes in the drought depiction were relatively minor, worsening conditions were noted in a few areas. Drought stress on vegetation was aggravated by very cold weather, which led to several record lows. In Kansas, for example, record-setting lows for November 19 plunged to 8°F in Garden City and 11°F in Medicine Lodge…

Colorado Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 22, 2022.

West

Like much of the rest of the country, the West experienced a full week of cold, dry weather, leading to minimal changes in the drought depiction. Fog, air stagnation, and low temperatures plagued the Northwest. Daily-record lows for November 17 included -16°F in Butte, Montana, and -3°F in Burns, Oregon. On November 18-19, Big Piney, Wyoming, collected consecutive daily-record lows of -15°F. Other Northwestern locations reporting a pair of daily-record lows on November 18-19 were Eugene, Oregon (21 and 18°F); Olympia, Washington (17 and 18°F); and Montana’s Bozeman Airport (-14 and -16°F). On the 18th, lows plunged to -22°F in Butte, Montana, and -21°F at Lake Yellowstone, Wyoming. Early-season snowpack remained mostly favorable west of the Continental Divide, but a return to stormy weather will soon be needed to sustain the promising start to the water year that began on October 1…

South

Significant rain fell in parts of the western Gulf Coast region, but most of the remainder of the South experienced cold, dry weather. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma and Texas were tied for the regional lead on November 20 with topsoil moisture rated 67% very short to short. On the same date, very poor to poor rating were observed in Texas for 58% of the rangeland and pastures; 52% of the oats; and 49% of the winter wheat. Similarly in Oklahoma, 41% of the winter wheat and 75% of the rangeland and pastures were rated very poor to poor. Amid the cold, dry regime, generally minor changes were introduced, except where heavy rain fell near the Gulf Coast…

Looking Ahead

Across much of the country, milder weather will replace previously cold conditions. By November 24, Thanksgiving Day, a storm system will begin to take shape across the south-central U.S. Late in the week, portions of the southern Plains should receive much-needed precipitation, including possible wet snow. Farther east, 5-day rainfall totals from the southeastern Plains to the southern Appalachians could total 2 to 4 inches or more. Late-week rain (locally 1 to 2 inches) may also spread into portions of the East and lower Midwest, including the Ohio Valley. Meanwhile, periodic precipitation will spread inland from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Rockies. Much of the remainder of the country, including an area stretching from California to the northwestern half of the Plains and the upper Midwest, will receive little or no precipitation during the next 5 days.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for November 28 – December 2 calls for the likelihood of below-normal temperatures across the northern Plains and much of the West, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail east of a line from the southern Rockies to Lake Michigan. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal precipitation in much of the southern and eastern U.S. should contrast with wetter-than-normal conditions from the Pacific Coast to the northern half of the Plains, Midwest, and mid-South.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending November 22, 2022.

A century ago in the #ColoradoRiver Compact: Wordsmithing details as time runs short — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

View showing steamboat Cochan on the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona in 1900. A photograph of the Cochan, last stern-wheel steamboat running on the Colorado River for the Colorado Steam Navigation Company between 1899 and 1909. This photo was taken in 1900. Cochan was sold to the U.S Reclamation Service in 1909. Not required by the Service, Cochan was dismantled in 1910. By Unknown author or not provided – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16588505

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

It was snowing like crazy at Bishop’s Lodge outside Santa Fe as the Colorado River Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover called the 24th meeting to order at 9:45 AM on the morning of Nov. 23, 1922. The Commission had only about 30 hours left before its Friday afternoon target for signing the compact and the “punch list” was long. Conceptually, the commissioners agreed on all of the compact’s major provisions, but drafting challenges remained.

They began with a discussion of “domestic.”  For the purposes of Articles III (e) and IV, rather than include a long list of water uses like mining, milling, manufacturing, and so on, they decided to define a broad group of uses as “domestic.” They could agree on what it didn’t include – it didn’t include agricultural, power generation, and navigation, so everything else would be domestic.  But it wasn’t that simple. What if a mine had its own hydroelectric power plant? Was that a mining or a power generation purpose?  They ended up agreeing to “The term ‘domestic use’ shall include the use of water for household, stock, municipal, mining, milling, industrial, and other like purposes, but shall exclude the generation of electrical power.”

The discussion then turned to Article III(d). Overnight Winfield Norviel had changed his mind. He was now OK with dropping the four million acre-feet minimum annual Lee Ferry flow requirement. It was one of many compromises Norviel had made during the negotiations, and it wouldn’t be his last.

The Commission then had a long and difficult conversation about Article IV, the priority of uses. The article had three paragraphs

  • IV(a) was a statement that the Colorado River was no longer navigable, but with language added that if Congress did not agree, the “the other provisions of this compact shall nevertheless remain binding.”
  • IV(b) made it clear power generation was a legal use but made it subservient to agricultural and domestic uses.
  • IV(c) stated that this article did not apply to the internal appropriation, use, and distribution of water within a state.

Utah’s R.E. Caldwell was opposed to the provision protecting the compact if Congress didn’t accept the navigation clause. Although he understood the reason Hoover suggested including the provision, his concern was including the language would be giving Congress the opportunity to step in and interfere with water projects within states. Ultimately, Caldwell agreed that, despite his objections, he would not vote against “the pact.”

Similarly, Colorado’s Delph Carpenter wanted to expand paragraph IV©, but ultimately agreed to only minor wording changes.

By the end of the 24th meeting, which lasted much of the day, their punch list has been whittled down to several minor wording changes and paragraph VIII. Hoover adjourned the meeting at 3 PM but asked the drafting committee to reconvene immediately. The 25th meeting would convene at the Chairman’s call after the drafting committee had done its work.

Hoover called the 25th meeting for 7:30 PM that evening. The Commission then went through a list of editing changes. Importantly, the Commission finally reached agreement on Article I, the purpose of the compact:

Turning to Article VIII, the commissioners and their advisors considered and debated 16 drafts before calling it a night without reaching a final agreement on the language.

They would have to meet again on Friday morning. There was more snow in the forecast.

In 1922, Federal and State representatives met for the Colorado River Compact Commission in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Among the attendees were Arthur P. Davis, Director of Reclamation Service, and Herbert Hoover, who at the time, was the Secretary of Commerce. Photo taken November 24, 1922. USBR photo.

The #ColoradoRiver Compact turns 100 years old. Is it still working? — KUNC #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Lee’s Ferry. Photo by John Fleck

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Luke Runyon). Here’s an excerpt:

On a chilly fall day, Eric Kuhn walked along a gravel path above the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The former head of the Colorado River District, a water agency based on the state’s Western Slope, paused where one of its tributaries, the Roaring Fork, spilled into the river, creating a two-tone stream at the confluence, of beige and dark brown.

“About a third of the water that originates in the Colorado River can be accounted for right at this spot,” Kuhn said. The river is fed by melting snow which gathers each winter on the high mountain peaks of the southern Rocky Mountains. “When I think of rivers, I think of, where’s the water coming from and where’s it going?” Kuhn said. “And what’s happened to this river over the last 100 years?”

In 2021 Kuhn co-authored “Science Be Dammed” with his colleague John Fleck, a water policy professor at the University of New Mexico. The book is a detailed examination of how the river’s foundational agreement — the Colorado River Compact — came together a century ago.

The legal document turns 100 years old this November. The agreement among seven western states to manage the river’s waters was groundbreaking for its time. But the anniversary of its signing, on Nov. 24 1922, comes as the river is facing arguably its most-pressing crisis. Water supplies are shrinking due to climate change-induced warming. Demands for water have yet to shrink to match the drier conditions. The river’s largest reservoirs are declining to record lows, and forecast to drop further. And that fact is prompting those grappling with the shrinking river to ask: What benefit is the Colorado River Compact still giving the region’s water users?

[…]

The river’s gap between supply and demand was baked in from the start, said Kathy Jacobs, a water policy professor at the University of Arizona. Since the Colorado River Compact was signed, a complex legal scaffolding of agreements, court decrees and laws has been built on top of it. But it remains the foundation of the river’s management…Heather Tanana, a University of Utah law professor and citizen of the Navajo Nation, said the compact also represents how Indigenous people and their interests have been excluded from river management over time.

Native land loss 1776 to 1930. Credit: Alvin Chang/Ranjani Chakraborty

Navajo Dam operations update (November 23, 2022): Bumping releases to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to falling flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for today, November 23rd, at 4:00 PM.  

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).  The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area.  The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. 

A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Think big! #Colorado #water projects on tap for $800M to $1.2B in federal money — @WaterEdCO

The Chimney Hollow Reservoir under construction in Colorado’s Larimer County, July 8, 2022. Credit: Jerd Smith, Fresh Water News

Click the link to read the article on the Water Education Colorado website (Thy Anh Vo):

Since 1962, people in Colorado’s Lower Arkansas Valley have heard talks of a pipeline that would bring them clean drinking water from Pueblo Reservoir upstream.

The 103-mile Arkansas Valley Conduit promises to be a long-term source of clean water for the region, where many people rely on poor-tasting and contaminated well water. The project was planned as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but for decades, the pipeline was too expensive for the small towns to afford, $600 million by today’s estimates.

If the project stays on schedule, the pipeline will reach its easternmost destination, the town of Lamar, Colorado, in 2035.

But with $60 million in new funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, officials are hoping to cut the project’s remaining 13-year timeline in half — and ensure steady access to clean water for more than 50,000 people living east of Pueblo along the Arkansas River.

“People have waited 60 years to build this,” says Chris Woodka, a spokesperson for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has made it entirely feasible that we could do this in a much shorter time.”

Also known as the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the 2021 law authorizes more than $550 billion in new investment that will be spread across the nation, including more than $50 billion for clean water programs and another $8.5 billion for Western water needs. The historic federal investment comes as Colorado and other Western states face growing pressures from climate change, drought and a regional crisis along the Colorado River.

Colorado windfall?

Colorado could receive between $800 million and $1.2 billion for water projects alone, according to an early estimate from Gov. Jared Polis’ budget office. A companion bill that passed in August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act, dedicates another $4 billion for drought resiliency in Western states.

The funding won’t resolve the drought. But the law is an opportunity to fund critical repairs on neglected water systems, many of which were built at the turn of the century.

Amy Moyer, director of strategic partnerships at the Colorado River District, hopes it will inspire water managers and public servants, who are used to engineering workarounds and funding projects piecemeal, to be more ambitious.

“It’s really giving [people] the license to think big,” Moyer says. The river district is giving grants to entities in its 15-county area to conduct studies and develop competitive applications for the federal money. “Projects that were previously unachievable because of a huge financial cost might be back on the table.”

How much money Colorado ultimately gets, however, will depend on efforts by state agencies, regional boards and advocacy groups to help communities, especially small and rural areas, navigate funding programs and pull together competitive applications. Entities eligible for funds include cities and towns, special districts, tribes, water suppliers, and nonprofit cooperative associations like mutual ditch companies.

“We have so many small water users and water providers that are maxed out by just trying to keep their systems running,” says Moyer, whose team has been helping people wade through federal programs to match their projects to the right opportunity.

Largest investment ever

The $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest single federal investment in the nation’s water infrastructure ever, with billions available for programs aimed at improving clean water access, fixing century-old facilities and dams, and investing in the health of watersheds and forests.

Most of the one-time dollars will flow through longstanding programs. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, which invests in projects that improve water efficiency, will get $400 million through the BIL. Another Reclamation program for Water Storage, Groundwater Storage and Conveyance Projects will get $1.15 billion, almost twice the total that the program received between 2016 and 2021.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, will receive $50.4 billion for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvements, including $15 billion to replace lead service lines. States will receive those dollars through their state revolving funds, programs that provide low-interest loans and use the money that borrowers pay back, through interest and principal, to provide additional future funding.

Colorado’s revolving funds — administered jointly by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority — will get $680 million over the next five years, or nearly three times usual annual funding levels.

The money won’t make up for decades of neglect of the country’s water infrastructure; a 2020 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, estimated that the U.S. needs to invest $109 billion each year over the next two decades to catch up. The EPA’s own estimate calls for more than $744 billion in capital investments over that time period to bring communities into compliance with federal water quality and safety standards.

It’s still a “tremendous opportunity” for utilities to make a serious dent in their deferred infrastructure needs, says Tommy Holmes, legislative director for the American Water Works Association.

“We’ve got to use this money effectively if we want to see any future federal investments on a big scale,” says Holmes.

Finally, cash

Other programs are getting funded for the very first time. Reclamation’s aging infrastructure account, created in 2009 to help fund operations and maintenance work at Reclamation facilities, has until now never received any money. Most of the agency’s facilities are between 60 and 100 years old. BIL allocates $3.2 billion to that account, or 39% of Reclamation’s total funding under the law.

The law also sets aside $1 billion for water initiatives in rural communities nationwide.

Tribal communities will receive $3.5 billion through the Indian Health Service, a recognition of the historical dearth of funding for tribal water infrastructure. Nearly 48% of tribal homes do not have access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation, according to a 2021 report from the Water and Tribes Initiative, with Native American families 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has been awarded more than $1.1 million in BIL dollars for two wastewater projects, including a project to repair damaged sewage pipes and improve service to more than 1,000 homes. Another $1 million will help improve drinking water service and water pressure to more than 152 homes in Towaoc, the headquarters of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in southern Colorado.

The $3.5 billion represents the entire construction funding gap identified by IHS to bring tribal communities to federal standards and tackle a backlog of critical clean water projects.

“This is the first time in history that gap has been filled with funding,” says water policy expert Anne Castle, who is co-leader of Universal Access to Clean Water for Tribal Communities, a project of the Water and Tribes Initiative. “I don’t want to suggest it is a complete eradication of the problem of lack of access to water and sanitation in Indian country, but it is a huge forward step.”

Pressure to act

Groups will need to act relatively quickly to pull together applications for the federal funding opportunity, which can take months to years to prepare.

At the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, general manager Steve Pope is used to navigating federal requirements. The association manages a federally owned system that diverts water from the Gunnison Basin to over 76,000 acres of land in Montrose and Delta counties.

The association hired a consultant to write a grant for a $6 million project to line a one-mile section of canal. Planning on any of its bigger pursuits, which range from $25 to $30 million, are still eight or nine months away from the grant-writing stage, a process that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Pope says.

“We’re probably going to get one crack at it,” says Pope. “You really have to have your ducks in a row.”

Small organizations with limited capacity may decide it’s not worth the work, says Sonja Chavez, general manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. Many projects need engineering work or a feasibility study to make their application competitive. To go after federal dollars, groups also need to secure state and local matching funds.

“For me to put in the effort to go after federal funds, I probably wouldn’t do it unless I had a significant project to go after,” says Chavez.

The advantage will go to “shovel-ready” projects that have already been studied and planned. Colorado’s revolving funds, for example, have so far awarded BIL-funded loans to four projects, all of which have been in development for years.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get this money out the door as quickly as possible,” says Alex Funk, director of water and senior counsel for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which is convening policy groups to strategize and support environmentally sustainable projects funded by the law.

A slow roll-out

Although the legislation was passed in November 2021, the money has been slow to roll out. Reclamation and state revolving funds will award funding on a rolling basis over the next five years, meaning organizations that aren’t yet ready to apply can try for a later round. Many programs have not released any funds, while some new programs have yet to release the criteria for applications.

Unlike the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which requires public agencies to spend all of their dollars by the end of 2026, there’s no uniform deadline for when organizations must spend their BIL funds.

The state revolving funds have one year to obligate the BIL dollars they receive each year and another two years to spend them, says Keith McLaughlin, executive director of the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority (CWRPDA), which serves as the banker for Colorado’s revolving funds.

In Northwest Colorado, the 126-year-old Maybell Ditch still delivers water from the Yampa River to 18 agricultural producers. Adjusting the headgates – which were built in the 1960s and are now broken – requires a one-mile hike into the canyon and the effort of a few people, says Mike Camblin, a rancher and volunteer manager of the Maybell Irrigation District.

Now with a $1.92 million BIL grant, the district hopes to begin construction next year on a project to build an access road, replace the headgates with an automated system, and to reconstruct portions of the ditch to address low-flow areas and large debris that make it impassable for boaters and too shallow and warm for fish.

The district and its partners worked for nearly five years to raise money for the project, get support in the community and from the Moffatt County Board of County Commissioners, and secure a grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

All that helped the project’s application to Reclamation’s WaterSMART Grants program, says Diana Lane, sustainable food and water program director at The Nature Conservancy, the project’s fiscal partner. The application criteria awards points for projects that build on state or local planning efforts.

Finding workers

Amid a nationwide labor shortage, finding the skilled workers and planners to move projects forward expediently will be challenging.

Many state and local governments are still trying to fill positions that opened up months ago. And while a large water utility or municipality has staff dedicated to grant writing or to support project development, smaller organizations often need to hire a consultant to write a grant, conduct a study, or do engineering work.

That kind of expertise can be hard to come by, especially in rural Colorado communities.

At the Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance, executive director Greg Peterson is focused on a watershed program under the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which received $918 million in BIL funding, that could help irrigators and agricultural users address issues like soil erosion and flood mitigation. Local entities only have to put up a quarter of the costs of a project and can receive up to $25 million.

Peterson is working with eight different communities on applications for the program. He struggled to find a Colorado expert with experience applying to the fund and ended up reaching out to a group in Oregon for help.

“If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t go after [the money] at all, probably,” he says.

State, regional groups step up

Early rounds of BIL grants went to states like Arizona and California that had more “shovel-ready” projects to put forward, says Moyer.

This year, officials are hoping money set aside by state lawmakers will give Colorado a competitive edge and help communities that don’t have the capacity to go after grants on their own.

“We’ve been really impressed with Colorado leadership in terms of recognizing that you have to work for these funds,” says Funk. “I think Colorado is actually a big competitor for this funding and could be a model for other states.”

The governor’s office estimates that Colorado needs $1 billion in local or state matching funds to successfully secure $4.1 to $7.1 billion in federal infrastructure dollars. Most federal programs require a local funding contribution, with some as high as 75%.

In addition to the $80 million in state matching funds set aside by state lawmakers, the state legislature also set aside $5 million for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to provide technical assistance for groups going after the dollars. Half of that will be available as direct grants for agencies to hire their own contractors, while the other half will pay for in-house contractors at CWCB who will provide assistance.

State agencies are also staffing up to conduct outreach about opportunities under the BIL. The Department of Local Affairs and Office of Recovery are hosting roundtables and webinars to answer questions from prospective applicants. Each of the state’s regional councils of government will receive funding to hire a coordinator to help local groups navigate federal and state programs. 

“We want to make sure communities have the opportunity to say yes or no to these funding opportunities – we don’t want a community to say, ‘I wasn’t aware,’” says Meredith Marshall, infrastructure coordinator at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

This article first appeared in Water Education Colorado’s Fall 2022 issue of Headwaters Magazine.

Fresh Water News is an independent, nonpartisan news initiative of Water Education Colorado. WEco is funded by multiple donors. Our editorial policy and donor list can be viewed at wateredco.org.

Thy Anh Vo is a freelance journalist based in Colorado. She’s passionate about journalism that shows people how government works and how to hold it accountable. Thy has reported for The Colorado Sun, ProPublica, The Mercury News in San Jose, and Voice of OC. 

Indy Q&A: #Nevada Supreme Court Justice Hardesty on training judges to hear #water cases — The Nevada Independent #CRWUA2022

Irrigation pivots on February, 25, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Click the link to read the article on Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit newsroom The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

Over the past few years, several consequential water cases have landed in front of the Nevada Supreme Court. Many of these cases are complex, involving long-running disputes with deep histories, conflicting interests and contested interpretations of a century-old statutory framework. 

And they put the judiciary at the forefront of some of Nevada’s most pressing water issues.

Although many water issues are pronounced in Nevada, as the driest state in the country, they are by no means exclusive to it. Across the West, water is over-appropriated — there are more legal rights to use water than there is water to go around. On top of that, the drought, worsened by a changing climate, has triggered further shortages in many watersheds. When conflicts do arise over who gets water, when and on what terms, it’s often left to the courts to step in.

Some states have turned to water courts. Other states have looked at training judges. Last year, the Supreme Court formed a formal commission to study how Nevada can improve its process for moving water disputes through the courts in a more timely manner. The commission, chaired by Justice James Hardesty, includes district court judges as well as representatives from Native American tribes, urban water utilities, rural counties, irrigation districts, mining and agriculture.

The commission, Hardesty said, has focused on two recommendations: creating an educational curriculum for lower court judges, and piloting a program to assign cases to trained judges. 

Exactly how that would work is something the commission is still working on through the end of this year. But in general, trained judges would comprise something of an informal water court, a system whereby water disputes would go before a District Court judge with training in that area. 

Last week, The Nevada Independent spoke with Hardesty about the commission’s work and what he has learned presiding over water cases during his nearly two decades as a Supreme Court justice.

Unlike other states, Hardesty said Nevada lacked a curriculum to train District Court judges in hearing water cases: “Throughout the West Coast, states have undertaken studies about the best way to process cases that involve pretty complex areas of law. And from those studies, at least four states have initiated — either by rule or by statute — certain requirements for the education of judges who hear the cases and for the processing of those cases.” 

“And this all comes at a time when water resources are becoming scarcer, water rights are over-appropriated and legal battles have occurred between a variety of groups trying to compete for access and priority to water. In our state, there was, at least up until the commission was formed, no formal education for a District Court judge to take that would assist in their review of our water law and the complex hydrological and geological challenges that surround it. The commission was initiated for the purpose of trying to determine how the judiciary should proceed in handling these cases.”

Although water cases are not the largest category of cases on the judiciary’s docket, Hardesty noted that the cases tend to be complex and can have significant implications for how water law is interpreted: “All of these cases have an enormous record of historical information and hydrological information, geological information and engineering studies that make them present as difficult and complex as many of the construction defect cases were in just the last decade and a half. So I thought it was important that our state undertake a study, since most of the law that is being developed is coming out of the judicial branch.” 

“We are dealing with a very old water law statute that has not been modified very many times. And as a consequence, there are some ambiguities and some uncertainties, and that instability in the water law is not healthy for an economy, like in our state, that is so dependent on a declining resource.”

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty on stage during Governor Steve Sisolak’s inaugural address on the steps of the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City, Nev., Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

In the coming weeks, several District Court judges will receive additional training at an upcoming National Judicial College conference in New Mexico. But Hardesty said it would be important for the judges to acquire specific education on Nevada law, including at an upcoming judicial conference in April: “I think this process will accelerate the capability of the judges to handle these cases, [improve] their expertise in this area and hopefully, from my standpoint, enable us to process them more quickly in the judicial system.”

“These water law cases can take a long time, and a lot of that is wading through a record, not all of which is really relevant to the issues in front of the judge. But you have to go through the whole record. And I think this will really help us accelerate decisions in this area and help provide some stability to the water law area in our state and fill in those gaps that exist in some of our statutes.”

As for those gaps in Nevada water law, reviewing statutory language was not a part of the commission’s mandate, and Hardesty said it would be difficult to do, given the many interests involved and the short length of legislative sessions. But he said there is an area where the Legislature can act without changing the law. It can increase funding for the office of the State Engineer, Nevada’s top water regulator: “I don’t think there’s any question that one can benefit from updating statutory direction. The challenge, though, is you’ve got a lot of competing interests, and the Legislature has such a limited amount of time… I think it would be really an enormous challenge to get something that a large number of stakeholders could get behind in such a short amount of time as a 120-day legislative session.” 

“Our commission has been in business for more than a year and a half, at least. And we’re just talking about the kinds of education [needed for judges] and how to structure the judicial system to handle these cases. When you identify so-called gaps within the statute, that’s another challenge.”

“Now there is an area, frankly, that I hope that the Legislature will look at and doesn’t require legislative change. The state engineer’s office is seriously underfunded. That fact alone is causing enormous delays [for people who are] seeking water rights, trying to perfect the water, trying to make appropriations. And that really harms the economy. I think it’s imperative that the Legislature dedicate some resources to strengthen the capacity of the state engineer to hire additional engineers, to hire additional officers and experts and conduct more hearings.”

The process of creating a water law curriculum for judges and assigning cases to trained judges would be set through the Supreme Court’s rulemaking process: “Our commission is not going to request a statutory change. We believe that the state will be more nimble if the judiciary, which constitutionally has the authority to assign cases and direct the process of cases anyway, develops this process by rule. And if in fact some modifications are needed…that can be done pretty quickly by a ruling from the Supreme Court, as opposed to waiting every two years for the Legislature to convene and then trying to study that in a short legislative session.”

“And particularly for a pilot program, we want to see how this works in Nevada. All of the commissioners polled said ‘Yes, at least a two-year pilot program.’ So we [can] get a good understanding of the data and the statistics, the assignments, the processing and the timing of cases. Is this something that would have been helpful years ago? Absolutely. But you have to start somewhere. And I think it’s a major step forward for the state.”

Over the past several years, the Supreme Court has issued important rulings in several areas of water law. In 2020, the court weighed in on a dispute over the Walker River and the public trust doctrine, a government’s obligation to protect natural resources for the public and future generations. And this year, in an opinion by Hardesty, the court upheld a locally approved groundwater plan that deviated from the principles that guide Western water law. Both cases were closely watched: “I think those cases and some other recent ones, and some other cases pending, frankly, underscore some of the uncertainties that exist in our water statutes and underscore the conflicting interests that exist over access to water and the utilization of water. They also underscore, I might add, just how voluminous the records are and how long it takes to get these cases to us and to get them decided.”

“I believe that the decisions we have made have provided guidance in those areas. But obviously there are other areas where judicial guidance would be helpful… I wish I had my notes in front of me, but I gave a speech to the Western Regional Water Conference, which is a conference of water law experts in the Western states. And I cataloged the number of Supreme Court decisions that have existed since the adoption of our water statute… Without question, the highest number of Supreme Court decisions on this topic have existed within the last decade as compared to all of the decades preceding 2010…”

“We’re anticipating, as a judicial system, an increase in the number of those discrete but important legal questions. So we need to get our judges ready and prepared to address this, and to address them as timely and as quickly as possible. On the executive branch side, as I mentioned earlier, more money to an important agency is not a legislative change. That’s just a recognition that that agency should have priority because it’s going to be the agency that’s responsible for Nevada’s water.” 

Daniel Rothberg is a staff reporter covering water, climate change and public land.

New report, Nature-Based Solutions, published for the National #Climate Task Force — NOAA #ActOnClimate

Cover of the NBS report, released at COP27. Credit: White House

Click the link to read the article on the NOAA website (Genie Bey):

At COP27 in Egypt, the Biden-Harris Administration released the Nature-Based Solutions Roadmap, an outline of strategic recommendations to put America on a path that will unlock the full potential of nature-based solutions to address climate change, nature loss, and inequity. This marks the first time the U.S. has developed a strategy to scale up nature-based solutions. The report was developed in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 14072, which recognizes the importance of forests and other nature-based solutions to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen communities and local economies. Led by the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Climate Advisor, the report was developed in consultation with numerous agencies, and identifies key opportunities for greater deployment of nature-based solutions across the Federal government. 

The Roadmap calls on expanding the use of nature-based solutions and outlines five strategic areas of focus for the federal government: (1) updating policies, (2) unlocking funding, (3) leading with federal facilities and assets, (4) training the nature-based solutions workforce, and (5) prioritizing research, innovation, knowledge, and adaptive learning that will advance nature-based solutions. Genie Bey, Zac Cannizzo, Chelsea Combest-Friedman, Bhaskar Submaranian, and Lisa Vaughan represented NOAA’s Climate Program Office as contributors to this report and the accompanying resource guide.

Access the White House Fact Sheet here » 

Access the NBS Roadmap Report here »

Access the NBS Resource Guide here »

Read more about nature-based solutions at COP27 here »

For more information, contact Genie Bey.

Crop residue November 4, 2021. Photo credit: Joel Schneekloth

After COP27, all signs point to world blowing past the 1.5C degrees #GlobalWarming limit – here’s what we can still do about it — The Conversation #ActOnClimate

Young activists have been pushing to keep a 1.5-Celsius limit, knowing their future is at stake. AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty

Peter Schlosser, Arizona State University

The world could still, theoretically, meet its goal of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, a level many scientists consider a dangerous threshold. Realistically, that’s unlikely to happen.

Part of the problem was evident at COP27, the United Nations climate conference in Egypt.

While nations’ climate negotiators were successfully fighting to “keep 1.5 alive” as the global goal in the official agreement, reached Nov. 20, 2022, some of their countries were negotiating new fossil fuel deals, driven in part by the global energy crisis. Any expansion of fossil fuels – the primary driver of climate change – makes keeping warming under 1.5 C (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times much harder.

Attempts at the climate talks to get all countries to agree to phase out coal, oil, natural gas and all fossil fuel subsidies failed. And countries have done little to strengthen their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the past year.

There have been positive moves, including advances in technology, falling prices for renewable energy and countries committing to cut their methane emissions.

But all signs now point toward a scenario in which the world will overshoot the 1.5 C limit, likely by a large amount. The World Meteorological Organization estimates global temperatures have a 50-50 chance of reaching 1.5C of warming, at least temporarily, in the next five years.

That doesn’t mean humanity can just give up.

Why 1.5 degrees?

During the last quarter of the 20th century, climate change due to human activities became an issue of survival for the future of life on the planet. Since at least the 1980s, scientific evidence for global warming has been increasingly firm , and scientists have established limits of global warming that cannot be exceeded to avoid moving from a global climate crisis to a planetary-scale climate catastrophe.

There is consensus among climate scientists, myself included, that 1.5 C of global warming is a threshold beyond which humankind would dangerously interfere with the climate system. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/temperature-anomaly?time=earliest..latest

We know from the reconstruction of historical climate records that, over the past 12,000 years, life was able to thrive on Earth at a global annual average temperature of around 14 C (57 F). As one would expect from the behavior of a complex system, the temperatures varied, but they never warmed by more than about 1.5 C during this relatively stable climate regime.

Today, with the world 1.2 C warmer than pre-industrial times, people are already experiencing the effects of climate change in more locations, more forms and at higher frequencies and amplitudes.

Climate model projections clearly show that warming beyond 1.5 C will dramatically increase the risk of extreme weather events, more frequent wildfires with higher intensity, sea level rise, and changes in flood and drought patterns with implications for food systems collapse, among other adverse impacts. And there can be abrupt transitions, the impacts of which will result in major challenges on local to global scales. https://www.youtube.com/embed/MR6-sgRqW0k?wmode=transparent&start=0 Tipping points: Warmer ocean water is contributing to the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier, a major contributor to sea level rise with global consequences.

Steep reductions and negative emissions

Meeting the 1.5 goal at this point will require steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, but that alone isn’t enough. It will also require “negative emissions” to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide that human activities have already put into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for decades to centuries, so just stopping emissions doesn’t stop its warming effect. Technology exists that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it away. It’s still only operating at a very small scale, but corporate agreements like Microsoft’s 10-year commitment to pay for carbon removed could help scale it up.

A report in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that meeting the 1.5 C goal would require cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 50% globally by 2030 – plus significant negative emissions from both technology and natural sources by 2050 up to about half of present-day emissions.

A direct air capture project in Iceland stores captured carbon dioxide underground in basalt formations, where chemical reactions mineralize it. Climeworks

Can we still hold warming to 1.5 C?

Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, countries have made some progress in their pledges to reduce emissions, but at a pace that is way too slow to keep warming below 1.5 C. Carbon dioxide emissions are still rising, as are carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

A recent report by the United Nations Environment Program highlights the shortfalls. The world is on track to produce 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 – more than twice where it should be for the path to 1.5 C. The result would be an average global temperature increase of 2.7 C (4.9 F) in this century, nearly double the 1.5 C target.

Given the gap between countries’ actual commitments and the emissions cuts required to keep temperatures to 1.5 C, it appears practically impossible to stay within the 1.5 C goal.

Global emissions aren’t close to plateauing, and with the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, it is very likely that the world will reach the 1.5 C warming level within the next five to 10 years.

With current policies and pledges, the world will far exceed the 1.5 C goal. Climate Action Tracker

How large the overshoot will be and for how long it will exist critically hinges on accelerating emissions cuts and scaling up negative emissions solutions, including carbon capture technology.

At this point, nothing short of an extraordinary and unprecedented effort to cut emissions will save the 1.5 C goal. We know what can be done – the question is whether people are ready for a radical and immediate change of the actions that lead to climate change, primarily a transformation away from a fossil fuel-based energy system.

Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The latest seasonal outlooks (through February 28, 2022) are hot off the presses from the #Climate Prediction Center

Another winter in #LaNiña’s grip? – November update to NOAA’s 2022-23 Winter Outlook #ENSO

Click the link to read the article on the NOAA website (Nat Cook):

While it’s a little intimidating to put on these oversized shoes, I’m forging ahead in an annual ENSO Blog tradition and giving you all the juicy details about NOAA’s Winter Outlook (1). Regular readers may remember that Mike Halpert of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has been the blog’s winter outlook guru for years, but following Mike’s retirement earlier this year, I’ll be leading you on this year’s journey (Mike, I will try to make you proud!). And maybe my job will be pretty easy this time, given that we are expecting a third consecutive winter with La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific. What will that mean for this winter? Let’s find out!

Double encore

Winter Outlook enthusiasts are likely aware of how much the occurrence of La Niña (as well as El Niño) can shape the outlook, and for good reason: ENSO, the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (the entire El Niño and La Niña system), exerts a significant influence on winter climate over North America. This influence translates into enhanced temperature and precipitation predictability, as previous events often share some common features. For example, as Mike described in each of the past two years, most of the 20 strongest La Niña events since 1950 brought drier-than-average conditions across much of the southern tier of the U. S., particularly along the Gulf Coast. On the flipside, the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley region, the Pacific Northwest, and the northern tier of the U.S. tended to be wetter than average, although there is less consistency to these La Niña impacts.

Winter precipitation patterns during each of the 20 strongest La Niña episodes since 1950. The strength is measured by the December–February Oceanic Niño Index (ONI), which is three-month average surface temperature departure from normal in the Niño 3.4 region. The December–February ONI for each episode is shown in parentheses (units of °C) above each map. Dark green colors indicate much wetter than normal conditions, and dark brown colors indicate much drier than normal conditions. The strongest La Niña episode is on the top left, and the weakest of the 20 episodes is on the bottom right. Maps by NOAA Climate.gov, based on NCEI climate division data provided by the Physical Sciences Division at NOAA ESRL.

La Niña also influences winter temperatures across the United States, although this effect is combined with another significant influence, the long-term temperature trend. La Niña tends to bring warmer-than-average winters across the southern U.S. and below-average temperatures across the northern Plains, with the frequency of the northern cold and southern warm signals at about 70% in the historical record. However, long-term winter warming over most of the U.S. appears to be enhancing the warmer-than-average tendencies in the south while reducing the cooler-than-average tendencies in the northern Great Plains.

Winter temperature patterns during each of the 20 strongest La Niña episodes since 1950. The strength is measured by the December–February Oceanic Niño Index (ONI), which is three-month average surface temperature departure from normal in the Niño 3.4 region. The December–February ONI for each episode is shown in parentheses (units of °C) above each map. Dark red colors indicate much warmer-than-normal conditions, and dark blue colors indicate much colder-than-normal conditions. The strongest La Niña episode is on the top left, and the weakest of the 20 episodes is on the bottom right. Maps by NOAA Climate.gov, based on NCEI climate division data provided by the Physical Sciences Division at NOAA ESRL

Easy as one-two-three?

With a 76% chance of La Niña through this winter, it’s likely that we will have a third La Niña winter in a row, which would be only the third time since 1950 that this has occurred. What might the previous two occurrences tell us about this winter?

Winter precipitation patterns during each La Niña “three-peat” since 1950, where a “three-peat” is defined as three consecutive winters with La Niña conditions. Note that the winter of 2022-23 is expected to complete the third such occurrence. As in the first figure above, dark green colors indicate much wetter than normal conditions, dark brown colors indicate much drier than normal conditions, and the December–February ONI for each episode is shown in parentheses (units of °C) above each map. Maps by NOAA Climate.gov, based on NCEI climate division data provided by the Physical Sciences Division at NOAA ESRL

Well, the patterns over the U.S. during the previous La Niña three-peats (2) tell a similar story as the maps for all other La Niñas: generally, a more consistent signal for precipitation, with dry conditions in much of the southern U.S., and higher variability in the temperature patterns.

Winter temperature patterns during each La Niña “three-peat” since 1950, where a “three-peat” is defined as three consecutive winters with La Niña conditions. Note that the winter of 2022-23 is expected to complete the third such occurrence. As in the first figure above, dark red colors indicate much warmer than normal conditions, dark blue colors indicate much cooler than normal conditions, and the December–February ONI for each episode is shown in parentheses (units of °C) above each map. Maps by NOAA Climate.gov, based on NCEI climate division data provided by the Physical Sciences Division at NOAA ESRL

The past two winters fit this description pretty well. The winter of 2020–21 featured a rather unusual temperature pattern (I previously wrote about that befuddling winter), whereas last winter, 2021–22, fit the La Niña temperature mold quite well. However, the precipitation patterns have been more consistent each of these past two winters, which has been bad news for the widespread U.S. drought.

The take-home message is that there is nothing obviously different about La Niña three-peats relative to all other La Niñas that would lead to markedly different expectations. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that this year’s winter outlook has a lot of similarities with the previous two.

The outlook!

Enough with the preamble, let’s get to the outlook! As noted above, CPC favors a similar temperature pattern taking shape this winter as they forecast before the last two winters.

Places where the forecast odds favor a much colder than usual winter (blue colors) or much warmer than usual winter (red), or where the probability of a cold winter, a warm winter, or a near-normal winter are all equal (white). The darker the color, the stronger the chance of that outcome (not the bigger the departure from average). Click here for a version that includes Alaska. Click here for a text-only discussion for Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from NOAA CPC.

Specifically, the CPC outlook (3) favors above-normal temperatures across the southern and eastern U.S., with the highest probabilities exceeding 50% in the eastern Gulf and South Atlantic states from southeastern Louisiana through most of South Carolina. Above-average temperatures are also favored for Hawaii and northwestern Alaska. The outlook tilts the odds toward colder-than-average across the Pacific Northwest, northern Great Plains, and southeastern Alaska, although none of the below-average probabilities reaches 50%.

Places where the forecast odds favor a much wetter than usual winter (green colors) or much drier than usual winter (brown), or where the probability of a wet winter, a dry winter, or a near-normal winter are all equal (white). The darker the color, the stronger the chance of that outcome (not the bigger the departure from average). Click here for a version that includes Alaska. Click here for a text-only discussion for Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from NOAA CPC.

The precipitation outlook favors above-normal precipitation across the northern tier of the U.S., with the largest probabilities in northern Idaho, western Montana, and in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions. Wetter conditions are favored in Hawaii as well, and this is the only U.S. location where the probability of above-normal precipitation exceeds 50%. In contrast, the entire southern tier of the country and southeastern Alaska have an elevated chance of drier-than-normal conditions, with probabilities exceeding 50% in southern Texas, northern Florida, and southeastern Georgia. Unfortunately, this means that we are not expecting any immediate drought relief in the Southwest and southern Great Plains, and drought may even expand into the Southeast, but hopefully we will see some improvement in the more northern drought-stricken regions.

The usual wildcards

Truth be told, the actual winter conditions never perfectly match the typical La Niña/El Niño impacts or CPC’s Winter Outlook, and frankly, sometimes they can look quite different (I’m still looking at you, winter of 2020–21). One of the main reasons is that there are several other important factors that can influence the average winter conditions, including sudden stratospheric warmings, the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), the Arctic Oscillation/North Atlantic Oscillation, the North Pacific Oscillation-West Pacific teleconnection, and the Pacific/North American pattern.

That may lead you to ask, “Well, Nat, if we know that these other factors can be important, why aren’t they clearly reflected in CPC’s Winter Outlook?” Good question! The reason is that even though, like ENSO, these other factors can leave a big imprint on average winter conditions, unlike ENSO, they’re very difficult to predict more than a few weeks in advance. From a seasonal forecaster’s perspective, these other non-ENSO factors fall into the dreaded “internal variability” category that Michelle wrote about last year (4). However, because they generally have at least some sub-seasonal predictability, their impacts are often reflected in CPC’s shorter-term outlooks, including their MonthlyWeek 3-48 to 14 Day, and 6 to 10 Day outlooks.

Probabilities are not guarantees

The uncertainty stemming from these other factors also highlights why CPC’s Winter Outlook is expressed in terms of probabilities, which means that the forecasts won’t always result in the favored (or expected) outcome. Nevertheless, these outlooks still allow users to take risk and opportunities into account when making climate-sensitive decisions. Benefiting from these outlooks requires users to play the long game. Although some forecasts will “bust,” these outlooks have a track record of demonstrated skill, so users who stick around for the long haul will come out ahead.

Footnotes

  1. This post discusses the November update to NOAA’s Winter Outlook that was originally released in October. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal outlooks are updated each month all year long, but the November update to the Winter Outlook is the forecast that is used for verification.
  2. Note that I am identifying “three-year La Niñas” or “La Niña three-peats” as three consecutive winters with La Niña conditions. The 1973–1976 and the current episodes had a few three-month periods from late spring to early fall that returned to ENSO neutral, but La Niña conditions had returned before the following winter.
  3. A standard reminder about the format of CPC outlooks: the forecasts show the probability of one of three favored categories: below-, near-, and above-normal. The three categories are defined by terciles in the temperature or precipitation distributions. The terciles are the 33.33 and 66.67 percentile positions in the distribution. In other words, they are the boundaries between the lower and middle thirds of the distribution, and between the middle and upper thirds. The below-normal category represents the lower third, and the above-normal category represents the upper third of the distributions.
     Also note that forecasts are indicated only when there is a favored category; otherwise, they show EC (“equal chances”). An EC forecast doesn’t mean that near-average temperature or precipitation is expected this winter in those regions, but rather that there’s no tilt in the odds toward any of the three outcomes. In the maps, the probability is shown only for the favored category, but not for the other two categories. Often, the near-normal category remains at 33.33, and the category opposite the favored one is below 33.33 by the same amount that the favored category is above 33.33. When the probability of the favored category becomes very large, such as 70% (which is very rare for a seasonal outlook), this rule for assigning the probabilities for the two non-favored categories becomes different.
  4. In the interest of accuracy, I note that ENSO does impact some of these other factors, especially the Pacific/North American (PNA) pattern. In fact, ENSO’s main impact on atmospheric circulation beyond the tropics is through a pattern that resembles the PNA, but as Michelle wrote previously, even the PNA has a substantial amount of variability that cannot be explained by ENSO.

Winter wheat condition is at a record low in the U.S. right now according to @usda_oce

In Colorado, over half the crop is in poor-to-very-poor condition. The High Plains states, from North Dakota to Texas, all saw significant degradation in the last week.

The topsoil moisture is lowest in #Nebraska and #SouthDakota at 87% and 85%, respectively. For the contiguous U.S., 53% of the area is rated short to very short. #drought — @DroughtDenise

New report finds Congressional gridlock is holding up legislation to protect over 16 million acres of Western public land — The Center for Western Priorities

Highest peaks of Ruby Mtns, photo from top of Snell mountain to the south. By Nomdeploom – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45280158

Click the link to read the release on The Center for Western Priorities website:

A new report from the Center for Western Priorities finds that bills to protect over 16 million acres of public land in the West are currently languishing in Congress. Protecting these landscapes would bring the nation closer to achieving the goal of conserving 30 percent of public lands and waters by 2030, a scientifically-driven priority backed by the Biden administration.

Despite incredibly strong and enduring support for conservation actions, worsening partisan gridlock has caused progress on conservation to grind to a halt. Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, Congress protected 9.5 million acres of lands through legislation. The next decade, from 2011 to 2021, Congress protected just 3.3 million acres, one-third of what had been protected the previous decade. This has not been for a lack of effort—many bills have been introduced and several have passed the House, some of them multiple times, only to stall out in the Senate.

This report, titled Languishing Lands, details a selection of landscapes that have been proposed for protection, including the greater Grand Canyon region and the Great Bend of the Gila in Arizona, the Ruby Mountains in Nevada, Castner Range in Texas, and the Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon. The President has a clear opportunity to deliver for the communities that have worked hard to craft broadly-supported proposals, and should not hesitate to exercise the authority that the Antiquities Act gives him for exactly this purpose.

Center for Western Priorities Policy Director Rachael Hamby said the following:

“Westerners overwhelmingly support public lands conservation and are eager to see President Biden take action to protect iconic landscapes across the West. This report shows that broadly-supported and popular conservation proposals are falling victim to gridlock in Congress.

“Communities, tribes, scientists, and lawmakers have worked tirelessly on all of these conservation proposals, and they deserve to see these sites and landscapes protected after years or even decades of persistent effort. President Biden has the power to bypass our dysfunctional Congress and protect millions of acres that are currently at risk of mining, drilling, and other forms of degradation. There’s no time to wait.”

READ THE REPORT

Learn more: 

Federal funds fuel #Wyoming forest infrastructure projects: Money could help to address maintenance backlog as user numbers grow — WyoFile

Wyoming landscape. Photo credit: Courtesy of Pixabay.com via NOAA

Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Katie Klingsporn):

Federal officials have allocated millions of dollars to improve roads and trails across Wyoming’s national forests — which have been under increasing strain as user numbers grow. 

The U.S Forest Service early this fall announced $65 million in investments nationwide to help the agency improve “water quality, roads, trails and fish habitat.” That included nearly $2.2 million in Legacy Road and Trails Remediation Program dollars for projects in the Bighorn, Bridger-Teton, Medicine Bow-Routt and Shoshone national forests for fiscal year 2022. The LRTR Program is expected to be funded annually at similar amounts through FY 2026.

In addition, the Great American Outdoors Act, which authorized nearly $3 billion annually through fiscal year 2025 for an array of public lands projects across the U.S., has funded a flurry of infrastructure projects on forests in Wyoming. 

The GAOA funding could help land managers address a backlog of maintenance projects to protect the natural resources and better handle growing crowds. 

“The Forest Service has a deferred maintenance backlog of approximately $6 billion,” Donna Nemeth, regional press officer for the USFS Rocky Mountain Region, wrote in an email. “These [GAOA] projects will help address this backlog, bring our infrastructure up to standards, and improve the public experience.” 

History 

Without entrance gates or crowd counters, it’s difficult to pin down exact visitation numbers on Wyoming’s 9 million acres of national forest, but managers agree the volume of visitors has been trending upward, putting strain on roads, trailheads, campgrounds and dispersed camping areas. 

District rangers and other groups are responding with measures meant to meet demand while protecting the resource — such as educational campaigns and proposals to update camping rules. But threadbare budgets and limited staff overseeing vast landscapes have made the task challenging. 

Infusions such as LRTR Program dollars “will address much needed critical road, trail, and stream improvements benefitting (sic) local communities and forest visitors in the Rocky Mountain Region,” Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Frank Beum said in a release. “This critical work also creates jobs in communities around the region, providing an opportunity to improve conditions in National Forests.”

Projects on tap 

Wyoming projects funded by the LRTR Program run the gamut from trail bridge improvements to road decommissioning. Most LRTR projects aren’t intended to increase user capacity, Nemeth wrote, but will “generally reduce impacts and increase resiliency related to increased use.” Examples include:

  • Cedar Creek and Driveway Trail bridge construction, $450,000, Bighorn National Forest. Reconstruction of two trail bridges above the high-water mark to improve stream functioning and protect the bridges and adjacent trails from erosion.
  • Afton Star Trail in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, $62,000. Rerouting the trail to reduce erosion, improve trail resilience and maintain future access
  • Whiskey Creek-Little Snake Watershed restoration in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, $375,000. Constructing aquatic passes, decommissioning roads, obliterating unauthorized roads and performing road reroutes and road-trail conversions.

The USFS awarded projects based on factors such as restoration work in priority watersheds, value of the road or trail for public access and increasing aquatic habitat connectivity, Nemeth wrote. 

The GAOA, meanwhile, enabled the USFS to invest in recreation infrastructure, public lands access and land conservation. 

Wyoming projects include: 

  • Vault toilet replacements, Bighorn National Forest, $200,000. A multi-year project to entail removing and replacing toilets at various picnic grounds, campgrounds and trailheads forest-wide.
  • Lower Middle Fork Trail reroute, Shoshone National Forest, $66,000. Improving a severely eroded section of the popular trail with numerous drainage structures plus rerouting roughly 4 miles of trail. 
  • Buckboard waterline replacement, Ashley National Forest, $55,000. Replacing distribution lines and valves of the water system serving the Buckboard boat ramp, campground and marina at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. 
  • Campground rehabilitation, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, $252,000. Survey, design and construction work to update several outdated campgrounds and parking lots to meet current needs.

The agency, Nemeth wrote, “is looking forward to addressing numerous deferred maintenance projects and delayed repairs through the Great American Outdoors Act.”

A century ago in #ColoradoRiver Compact negotiations: Agreeing on apportioning the river — InkStain @jfleck @R_EricKuhn #COriver #CRWUA2022

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the InkStain website (Eric Kuhn and John Fleck):

When the Colorado River Compact Commission adjourned two days previously, on Nov. 20, 1922, two major Colorado River Compact issues had been left unresolved; the amount of water that would be apportioned to the Lower Basin and how the compact would address the need for storage to protect the Imperial Valley from flooding and stabilize river flows. The commission had also identified potential solutions to both.

THE VIEW FROM AFAR

Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 22, 1922. Screenshot via InkStain

The view from outside the tense, cloistered negotiations being held at Bishop’s Lodge outside Santa Fe remained optimistic. In a widely publicized telegram to President Warren G. Harding, Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover (who was then Harding’s Secretary of Commerce) described the unprecedented nature of the nearly completed task:

“It is worthy of note that this is the first occasion when more than two states have come together under the direct provisions of the constitution established through this method the solution of interstate difficulties outside the courts.”

But in a blunt case of dueling public telegrams, Arizona’s Governor-elect, George W. Hunt, warned that getting seven state buy in remained an uphill slog. Arizona, he wrote, would not sign onto a compact until its rights to water, and infrastructure, to meet the state’s ambitious irrigation plans were clarified.

Even as the negotiators closed in on a deal at Bishop’s Lodge, Hunt’s increasingly strident rhetoric made clear that what came after the negotiations would not be easy.

THE LOWER BASIN’S EXTRA MILLION ACRE FEET CONFIRMED

The commissioners and their advisors had spent a busy Tuesday caucusing and having individual discussions about closing the deal and agreeing to a compact. They made considerable progress.

Hoover opened the 22nd meeting with a discussion of Article III, the apportionment of the use of water between the two basins. Arizona’s Winfield Norviel had tentatively agreed to compromise alternative #4 from the solution list that Nevada’s James Scrugham had suggested. The Lower Basin would be given the rights to increase its uses by an additional one million acre-feet per year making its total apportionment 8.5 million acre-feet.

Hoover then took the commission through seven subparagraphs of Article III. In addition to a new Article III(b) providing the Lower Basin with the additional million acre-feet, the drafting committee had decided to change the language of Article III(a), instead of limiting appropriations, the compact would be apportioning beneficial consumptive use between the two basins. Hoover noted that because they couldn’t agree on a common definition of the word, they had decided to avoid using the term “appropriation” in the compact. Wyoming’s Frank Emerson had raised another concern, he wanted the compact written so that the common person could understand it.

Article III(a) apportions in perpetuity to each basin “for its exclusive use, 7,500,000 acre-feet per annum, which shall include all water necessary for the supply of any rights which may now exist.” Norviel asked why the division is being made between the two basins, not the two divisions. Hoover responded, “the division we confine purely to a political division and the basin to a physical division.”  Hoover then read Article III(b), “The lower basin is given the right to increase its beneficial consumptive use by the further quantity of one million acre-feet per annum.” The commissioners suggested several potential wording changes, but decided to agree to it for the moment, then come back to it for further wordsmithing.

WATER FOR MEXICO AND THE EXPECTATION OF “SURPLUS”

Moving on Hoover noted that the provision dealing with water for Mexico had been moved from a separate article (IV) to Article III(c), but the concept was the same.  Water for Mexico would first come from the surplus. If the surplus was insufficient, then the deficiency would be equally borne between the two basins and the States of the Upper Division would deliver one half of deficiency at Lee Ferry in addition to that provided in paragraph III(d). Again, individual commissioners made suggestions for wording changes, but the commission agreed to the paragraph in concept.

Article III(d) remained basically unchanged from previous drafts; the States of the Upper Division would not cause the flow of the river at Lee Ferry to be depleted below an aggregate of 75 million acre feet every ten years nor below a flow of four million acre-feet annually. At this point in drafting, the commission assumed that the water accounting year would run from July 1st to June 30th.

They then moved to Article III(e), which prohibited the States of the Upper Division from withholding and the States of the Lower Division from requiring the “delivery of water which cannot reasonably be applied to beneficial, agricultural, and domestic uses.” James Srcugham raised the question of how this applied to mining, milling, and such uses. Hoover suggested they deal with that in the definition of “domestic”

The remaining discussion focused on Articles III(f) and (g), the provisions setting out the details for the future apportionment of the surplus pool.  While several commissioners were confused by the initial wording, the concept was that under III(f) a further apportionment could be made of the water unapportioned by paragraphs III (a), (b), and (c) after July 1st, 1968, and when either basin had reached the total beneficial consumptive use set out in III(a) and (b).  Paragraph III(g) provided that any two states or one state and the president of the United States could give notice to the other states to trigger the next apportionment round. The next agreement would also be subject to ratification by the legislatures of each state and Congress.

There was general agreement except for the date when the new apportionment round could be triggered.  Arizona’s Norviel wanted a shorter period, no more than 30 years. The upper river commissioners wanted a longer period.  They would end up compromising on a 40-year period.

Authors note: today given the reality that the flow of the river is much smaller than what was assumed in 1922, these two articles are almost never discussed, but to the commissioners that negotiated the compact in 1922 they were essential to the political compromises necessary for unanimous agreement on the compact, illustrating how important the overestimate of the river’s flow, discussed in our book Science Be Dammed, was to the negotiators’ ability to come to agreement.

WHITHER STORAGE

With the caveat that more drafting was needed, Commission had reached agreement on Article III, a major accomplishment. The question of how deal with storage remained unsettled. Hoover planned to address this issue in the next meeting, their 23rd, scheduled for that afternoon. In the remaining morning session, Hoover turned to the issue of navigation and a provision proposed by his federal legal advisor, Attomar Hamele.

There was agreement in the room that the Colorado River was no longer navigable, and navigation should not interfere with other beneficial uses. But what if Congress did not agree? In fact, both Hoover and Hamele were predicting that many in Congress would not agree. Hoover’s solution was to suggest that if Congress did not agree, the remaining provisions of the compact would remain, and the pact would not have to be renegotiated. James Scrugham suggests a committee to draft such language.

Hamele suggested a compact provision that protects the rights of the United States. He pointed out that project works built and funded by the United States were the largest source of irrigation water in the basin and many more were being planned and that these projects needed full protection. If he had stopped there, he may have succeeded, but he went on to tell the commissioners that the United States also had a claim to the unnapropriated waters in the basin.  To that, all eight commissioners objected. After a difficult discussion, Hoover concluded “an expression reserving the unappropriated waters destroys the entire basis and sense and purpose of this whole commission.”  Nevada’s Srugham added that with such a provision none of the seven states would ratify the compact. The discussion ended.

After a long break, Hoover convened the 23rd meeting at 3:45 PM. He immediately turned to the new Article VIII which he hoped would address the Californians need for a storage provision. After the meeting Hoover and McClure had convened with the Californians most had left Santa Fe angry and disgusted. Hoover, recognizing his mistake, convinced J. S. Nickerson, President of the Board of the Imperial Irrigation District to stay and assist McClure.

After a discussion and wordsmithing of the drafting committee’s proposal, Hoover read the proposed article VIII; “Present perfected rights to the beneficial use of the waters of the Colorado River System shall constitute the first charge upon the water hereby apportioned to that division of the basin in which they are situated.  All uses which may be perfected subsequent to the effective date of this compact shall be satisfied exclusively from the remaining water apportioned to that division of the basin in which they are situate and shall have no claim upon any part of the water apportioned to the other division of the basin. Whenever works of capacity sufficient to store 5,000,000 acre-feet of water have been constructed on the Colorado River within or for the benefit of the lower basin, any rights which the users of water in the lower basin may have against the users of water in the upper basin shall be satisfied thereafter from the waters so stored.”  The drafting committee had also proposed adding the remedies language to the end of paragraph VIII (combining paragraphs VIII and IX).

The commissioners, except New Mexico’s Steven Davis, were OK in concept, but thought the language was very confusing. The Commission would end up discussing numerous drafts before the article was finalized. Steven Davis, although appointed by Hoover to help with the drafting, was now an unwilling participant. He told the others he strenuously objected to the third sentence of the paragraph. Davis, a New Mexico Supreme Court Justice, found the legal logic flawed. If the concept was that perfected rights that existed before the compact could not be impacted by the compact, how could that same compact limit them by requiring that they be satisfied by future stored water? Davis added that he would not, however, vote against the article and interfere with the unanimous approval of the compact. Carpenter preferred the storage trigger be 1,000,000 not 5,000,000 acre-feet but understood the lower river would not go that low.

A 4 MILLION ACRE FOOT FLOW MINIMUM?

Recognizing that Article VIII needed more work, they went onto other matters including a broad discussion of article I, the purposes of the compact. Before they adjourned, Hoover raised the question of the four million acre-feet annual minimum annual flow under Article III(d). Now with Articles III(e) and VIII, was it still needed? Winfield Norviel responded that he was still in favor of it. Hoover then adjourned the meeting until Thursday at 9:30 AM, but requested the drafting committee continue their work in an evening session.

Graphic credit: Chas Chamberlin

#Snowpack off to a good start across #ColoradoRiver basin — KNAU #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 22, 2022 via the NRCS.

Click the link to read the article on the KNAU website (Alex Hager). Here’s an excerpt:

This year’s snowpack is off to a good start, but the basin would need years of back-to-back wet conditions to help erase drought.

“We’ve had a few rough years,” Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist, said. “And so to get to get us back into a more comfortable spot, we really need above average peak and a nice, slow, sustained melting season in the spring.”

To keep up those higher-than-average totals, Bolinger says the mountains need consistent snow every week until the spring. Snowpack in Arizona is much higher than in many other parts of the mountain west. Most regions that collect data in the state are showing more than 200% of the average for this time of year.

#Northglenn increasing #water rates — The Northglenn/Thorton Sentinel

Webster Lake in Northglenn February 14, 2020, Winter Bike to Work Day 2020.

Click the link to read the article on the Northglenn/Thornton Sentinel website (Luke Zarzecki). Here’s an excerpt:

The increase is part of a long-term plan for the city to be able to meet the funding and service requirements of water operations. In 2017, the city contracted Stantec Consulting to do a rate study. 

“The study determined that to meet the funding and service requirements of water and wastewater operations, revenue collections would need to increase approximately 3.6% to 6.7%  annually in each of the subsequent 10 years beginning in 2018,” the agenda read.

Future projects are the main drivers of the increase. From 2025 to 2027, there will be $37 million needed in repairs and another $37 million from 2028 to 2031.  Rates will slowly increase between Jan. 1, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2027. The first 3,000 gallons will go from $4.24 to $4.59; 3,000 to 10,000 gallons will increase from $5.31 to $5.75; 10,000 gallons to 20,000 gallons will jump from $6.64 to $7.19; and over $20,000 gallons will creep up from $9.96 to $10.78.  City Councilor Rich Kondo asked if there were any rhyme or reason to establishing the tiers. Director of Finance Jason Loveland said they were established a long time ago to encourage conservation.  The average winter consumption for Northglenn residents is about 5,000 gallons, which will go from costing $66.76 in 2022 to $69.09 in 2023. Summer months are higher: the average usage is 15,000 gallons. The price tag will increase from $125.36 to $128.84. 

Five key lessons as world’s biggest dam removal project will soon begin on the Klamath River: After more than 100 years of being dammed, the lower #KlamathRiver will flow free once again — American Rivers

Click the link to read the release on the American Rivers website (Brian Graber):

To be able to make that statement, it has taken decades of advocacy by Tribes who depend on a living Klamath River for their cultural identity and for their food security. It has also taken years of effort by the Tribes, the states of California and Oregon, the dams’ owner, federal agencies, and several nonprofits, including American Rivers, to navigate the lengthy planning, fundraising, regulatory and project design processes. But finally on November 17, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the hydropower License Surrender to remove four dams from the Klamath River. The License Surrender follows from earlier this year, when FERC issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement recommending that the dams be removed due to their cultural and environmental impacts. There are more steps that need to be taken, including additional regulatory steps, before deconstruction can begin in 2023, but a project that has been decades of struggle and seemed to be falling apart as recently as two years ago, now feels inevitable.

The Klamath River basin is home to the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa, and other Tribes. Salmon are both a food source and a focal point for their cultural identity. The Klamath was once a highly productive salmon river with one million fish returning to the river each year. Largely because of the four dams, there are no longer enough fish for the Tribes to have Klamath salmon as a primary food source.

In 1918, the Copco 1 Dam was completed, cutting Klamath salmon off from the upper part of the basin. Over the next 44 years, three more dams were built (Iron Gate, Copco 2, and J.C. Boyle dams) on the river in California and Oregon, effectively closing off 400 miles of habitat to salmon and steelhead, ultimately resulting in dramatic fish population declines.

Perhaps even more devastating to life in the river, the dams’ reservoirs became breeding grounds for cyanobacteria. It is a substance that looks like a blue-green algae and is toxic to aquatic life, to humans, to livestock, and to pets. The Karuk tribe measured a Klamath toxicity content that exceeded World Health Organization guidelines by almost 4,000 times. There are warning signs near the water. When you look at the reservoirs, they look wrong, a color that makes you instantly cringe when you see it. The phosphorescent film also traps heat and depletes the oxygen content in the water. As a result, 90% of the small number of salmon that return to the river become seriously ill. Between habitat fragmentation and terrible water quality, the fish do not stand much of a chance with the dams in place.

Removing the dams will end these problems. The fish will be able to return to habitat they have not seen for a century. Cyanobacteria will be no longer be a problem – it does not persist in flowing water. The beautiful Klamath River will be better able to sustain life.

Now that the Klamath project is closer to the end than it is to the beginning, I wanted to share a few reflections on things I have learned through the project and how the project resonates nationally:

1. We need to do better for tribes and justice and food sovereignty.

The Klamath story is one that is too common for Indigenous people. While the outcome on the Klamath will be positive, the path to get there has been a struggle. In 1864, the Klamath Tribes negotiated a treaty with the United States that affirmed their sovereignty and included rights to fish for salmon. It was signed and ratified by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870. Over the next century, U.S. companies built dams on the Klamath River that wiped out two species of salmon and brought the populations of the remaining salmon to 5% of what they were. The tribes had the right to fish, but the fish were nearly gone. In 2000, when the dam owner, PacifiCorp, did not include provisions for fish passage in their initial bid to relicense the dams, tribal members went all the way to Scotland to protest to PacifiCorp’s parent company. Later, when Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired PacifiCorp, tribal members went to Nebraska multiple times to protest at the company’s annual meetings. A real turning point in the project happened in 2020 when Berkshire Hathaway executives accepted the tribes’ offer to visit the dams and meet with tribal members on the river. The tribes’ advocacy made these dam removals possible, but it should not have taken this much for the tribes to retain a cultural focus that they have had since time immemorial – that the Klamath River is free to sustain life.

2. Dam removal makes economic sense.

In ultimately deciding to decommission the dams, PacifiCorp made a sound economic decision.An early draft FERC report estimated that the dams would lose $20 million per year including expenses to operate the dams and expenses to address the dams’ water quality impacts. The California and Oregon Public Utility Commissions confirmed this, determining that dam removal would result in cheaper energy costs for their ratepayers than relicensing the dams, so much so that ratepayers are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to remove the dams. Paying to eliminate underperforming infrastructure is a sound fiscal decision. What’s more, the power from the dams can be replaced with clean renewables and efficiency, without contributing to climate change.

3. We need to make it easier to decommission hydropower dams.

PacifiCorp originally agreed in principle to remove the dams in 2010 as part of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). In 2016 the KHSA was amended with a more defined plan to transfer the dams for removal to a new nonprofit entity, the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC). But then, in 2020, FERC denied the initial license transfer from PacifiCorp to the KRRC. The states of Oregon and California stepped in and agreed to become co-licensees, an unprecedented step that rescued the project. With the new license transfer structure in place, FERC was able to issue the Final License Surrender Order. It took 12 years after PacifiCorp agreed to remove the dams in principle, and 22 years after they first started the relicensing process, to finally determine the fate of the hydropower license and the dams. As is usually the case with dam removals, the dams will come down faster than the process to get to removal. American Rivers will continue to advocate for improvements in the processes that allow dam owners who consent to removal to remove their dams.

4. The States of California and Oregon continue to prioritize river restoration.

Through various programs, both California and Oregon provide millions of dollars each year for river and wetland restoration projects. Along with rescuing the Klamath project during the license transfer process, both states have supported the Klamath Dam removals from the beginning. Their restoration ethic should serve as models for states throughout the country.

5. The approach to develop a new nonprofit to implement a complex project has worked (again).

The Klamath River Renewal Corporation was modeled after the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, a similar structure developed to remove hydropower dams in Maine. In both cases, very complex projects were well managed by skilled staff hired for the purpose. The staff at the KRRC and their consultants (Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) and Kiewit Infrastructure West) are making the nuts and bolts of the Klamath project possible. There is no better example of that than the Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by FERC. It includes hundreds of pages of challenging issues, from cultural resources to sediment management to engineering design to public safety issues, that all need to be managed in a complex project like this. Every one of them has a clear statement of how they will be managed, demonstrating the level of thought and analysis and engineering that the KRRC has put into the project. I have seen reports on similar projects stating the impossibility of managing this much complexity. KRRC is making it all possible and clarifying that while there are many issues , they can all be reasonably managed.

This effort on the Klamath River will make history: never before have four dams of this magnitude been removed at once. The Klamath dams are large structures, ranging in height from 33 feet to 172 feet. Every successfully completed project makes the next project easier. I hope that the Klamath projects will serve as models to complete more large-scale river restoration projects throughout the country.

The Klamath dam removals will begin in 2023 and will be completed in 2024.